If the 2022 Old Farmer’s Almanac is right -- and its prognostications are accurate 80% of the time -- the North American commercial vehicle market could be in for one of the longest and coldest winters in years, and heavy-duty vehicle lift manufacturer Stertil-Koni warns some vehicle maintenance facilities may not be adequately prepared.
The challenge is clear: Increasingly harsh weather puts vehicle safety, performance, and longevity at risk. That in turn impacts not only the people who service these fleets but the vast number of riders and ordinary citizens who depend on them for everything from their daily commute, food deliveries and school transportation, to emergency medical services, waste removal, utility repairs, day-to-day provisions, and virtually everything we consume.
It’s also why Stertil-Koni is urging vehicle maintenance shops across the U.S. and Canada that utilize lifts to have a gameplan in place. The company recommends a six step approach to ensure optimal technician safety combined with enhanced vehicle durability and performance -- all of which requires additional focus in wintery conditions.
Here’s the plan:
- Schedule vehicle lift inspections each year: Heavy-duty vehicle operators should make certain their lifts are fully operational by having them inspected each year – ideally by an ALI (Automotive Lift Institute) Certified lift inspector. If one is not available in your area, use factory or manufacturer-authorized technicians to service and repair your lifts.
- Increase vehicle washing intervals: Each winter, commercial vehicles are exposed to not only a superabundance of snow and ice, but corrosive levels of road salt, dirt, and grime that in turn adhere to the chassis and undercarriages of virtually all buses and trucks in cold-weather climates. Experts know dirty vehicles translate into added repair time and costs.
“Hazardous contaminants and road grime can adversely affect a vehicle's powertrain, potentially leading to overheating and corrosion. When undercarriages are not cleaned frequently, it can reduce the lifespan of engines and batteries alike,” Dr. Jean DellAmore, president of Stertil-Koni USA, explained. In response, Stertil-Koni has engineered a water-resistant heavy-duty vehicle lifting system – the Skylift Wash Bay model – which is a true vertical-rise platform lift with water-resistant, anti-corrosion, hot-dipped galvanized steel platforms for runways. It provides free access to the vehicle from all sides, making it easy to keep a fleet clean.
- Technician safety: Regardless of the season, always lift vehicles to a proper height so technicians can move about freely, safely, and comfortably underneath the vehicle. Then, verify lifts are locked in position before standing under the vehicle. Ideally, select vehicle lifting systems that have mechanical locks as standard – and emphasize to your techs how easy and important it is to utilize these locks.
- Adhere to proper lifting points: Always use designated lifting points on the vehicle. For inground lifts, operators should check that the contact points are properly positioned – a key step that has become even more critical as electric vehicle use proliferates.
- Vehicle lift stability is key: Always place mobile column lifts on a firm foundation and on level ground prior to lifting a vehicle. Because these lifts can be relocated outside of the maintenance shop, first check for wind loads – which are often more prevalent in winter. Further, select a lift with an “electronic synchronization” system. As the lift goes into motion and continues through the full-range up to its maximum height, vehicles should rise smoothly, even those with unequal weight distribution, such as fire trucks and pumpers. Then, double check that the lifted vehicle itself is level.
- Go ergonomic: Use lift accessories specifically designed to help ensure fleet maintenance operator safety and proper ergonomics. One example is a high lift wheel dolly from Stertil-Koni, which allows wheel removal and adequate alignment of dual tire assemblies and brake drums to be completed efficiently and accurately, without back strain.
“Safety is always mission number one, and winter can present some real challenges. That is precisely why we suggest this six-point program, so shop technicians can perform their duties safely, efficiently, and with complete confidence. These protocols ensure higher workplace morale, greater rates of technician retention, and add longevity to the vehicles being serviced," DellAmore noted.