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Because public works fleets consist of a wide range of vehicles, versatility is a key consideration when choosing vehicle lifts. Photos: Rotary Lift

Lift quality: The first step in assessing lift quality is to look for certification by the Automotive Lift Institute (ALI). Lifts carrying the gold ALI/ETL Certification Label have been independently tested and verified to meet American National Standards Institute performance, quality, and safety standards. (Intertek ETL SEMKO is the independent testing lab that performs testing for ALI.) Also ask your technicians and colleagues about their experience with various lifts and which brands they recommend. Talk to them about the productivity of lifts they have used, the installation process, repair history, ease of maintenance, and how user-friendly the owner's manual is.

Ergonomics: Some lifts provide greater operator comfort and productivity than others. Look for models that don't require technicians to crouch down or crawl on the floor to set up or operate the lift. The lift should also allow as much clear space under the vehicle as possible, front to back and side to side. If the lift offers fine height adjustment, technicians can position the vehicles in the most comfortable working position possible. Other considerations include lighting, air tool connections, wheels-free capability, easy-to-use controls, single-point lock release, and a place to store adapters and tools.

Lift maintenance: The most desirable lifts offer a lifetime of safe, reliable service with minimal maintenance. Some lifts alert operators when maintenance is needed. Compare maintenance schedules and warranties of lifts under consideration. Is there a factory-authorized service provider in your area? Are original equipment replacement parts readily available?

Budget: Your lift choice is subject to your budget limitations. Consider the total cost of ownership: purchase price, maintenance, repair costs, parts, and downtime. When a lift isn't working, bay productivity can be cut in half. If it takes technicians four hours to complete a two-hour job, work will back up quickly. What's more, a single out-of-warranty repair can cost 30% of the price of a new lift. Spending a little more up-front for a more reliable lift is an investment in your fleet maintenance facility's long-term productivity.

— Doug Spiller is heavy-duty product manager for Rotary Lift in Madison, Ind.