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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

It's the Friday before a holiday weekend. One of the cruisers needs a strut. The Parks and Rec truck threw a universal joint and you have to replace a power takeoff on the dump truck. The problem is, you only have one mechanic in the shop. How can you get all of this done in one day with a single mechanic?

A vehicle lift is the express lane to faster fleet repair. Studies show a lift can save a facility more than $100,000 per year in labor costs. Vehicle lifts provide technicians with comfortable, convenient access to all of the components on a vehicle so they can perform maintenance and repairs as efficiently as possible. Lifts also offer an ergonomic work environment, enhancing worker safety and helping to prevent injuries.

Because of the central role lifts play in maintenance and repair tasks for every vehicle in a public works fleet, it is crucial that they be chosen with care. A lift that does not perform the needed functions or that requires frequent repair will disrupt work flow, increase vehicle down-time, and cost your department much more than its purchase price over time.

How can you determine which lifts are best for your operation? Consider the following seven factors.

Facility layout: Some lift manufacturers offer free facility planning assistance, including recommendations on which lifts to install and where to position them to maximize technician productivity. A local lift distributor also can be an asset. The distributor's factory-trained personnel evaluate your facility and vehicle mix to suggest the best lifts for your operation. Facility planners will evaluate factors such as space availability, traffic flow, concrete and soil quality, vehicle length and turning radius, and whether the property is leased or owned.

Vehicles serviced: Versatility is a key consideration when looking at lifts for a public works fleet, which typically consists of a wide range of vehicle types and sizes. Some communities are best served by installing more than one type of lift. Your lifts should be able to raise all the vehicles in the fleet, from passenger cars to buses. Your fleet mix will determine your choice of lift styles, lifting capacities, arm configurations, and adapters or other accessories.

Services performed: Some lift styles are better matched to certain applications than others. Make sure the lifts you are considering are appropriate for the types of work you do. Because 60% of technicians' time is spent on brake, steering, and suspension work, full-service bays should be equipped with lifts that offer wheels-free capability, like an in-ground model. In bays designated for quick-turn services, such as oil changes, four-post or parallelogram lifts make it easy to position vehicles quickly.