I learned something surprising-at least for me-while walking the show floor at this week's annual American Public Works Association convention: Architects specify vehicle lifts more often than fleet managers.

It seems unfair and illogical that the people overseeing one of the community's largest investments wouldn't get to weigh in on the features or brands their technicians prefer. I assume the architect would interview his (or her) client extensively to tease out the information necessary to design the most productive environment, but would that include learning the finer points of lift technology?

If you know, let me know. In the meantime, I'm proud to announce I operated a Rotary Lift that was introduced during the show. I've never worked on my car beyond adding Heet anti-freeze to the gas tank during Chicago's biting winters, but even I could see the productivity and safety advantages of the Mach 4 column lifts.

Each column is battery operated, so you're not dragging extension cables all over the place if you want to work on a vehicle out in the yard. Speaking of cables, the columns' are placed about 5 or 6 feet up off the floor in one of those built-in cord reels you see people walking their dogs with. A four-column configuration requires three, not four, communication cables.

Though each column has slots into which to slide a forklift's forks, a spring-loaded handle jacks the column up on wheels so you can push it into place when the wheels automatically retract. There was a Tymco sweeper on the lift, so I didn't do any pushing.

But I did play with the controls, which are so clearly labeled even I could figure out what they mean. Each column is identical, so I had fun (slightly) tilting the sweeper up and down and seeing how fast I could raise and lower it, all by myself. One button looked like it would return the vehicle to the floor, but in fact it was a "lower-to-lock" function that indicates a vehicle is resting on the columns' mechanical locks. (Each column has a rated capacity of 18,000 pounds and raises a vehicle 69 inches in 78 seconds, according to press materials.)

We'll share the details of more "toys" in our Sept. 3 edition of this newsletter.

Stephanie Johnston