Within the variety of liftgate styles, each is meant to improve truck loading and unloading, especially when the shipping or receiving location does not have a loading dock, making manual loading and unloading necessary. Liftgates can increase delivery speed, particularly with heavy cargo.

Liftgates also can help minimize product damage because cargo delivered with the help of a liftgate is subject to less harm from dropping or mishandling. Additionally, liftgates are able to enhance workplace safety related to personnel back and lifting injuries.

For a liftgate to provide the lowest cost of operation, it must be specified correctly. Having the appropriate type of liftgate for the intended application is essential to the liftgate’s performance and safe operation. The liftgate also must be well-maintained. Keeping a liftgate in good operating condition also decreases the risk for malfunction, helping prevent worker injuries, loss of time and loss of products.

Necessary considerations

One of the foremost considerations in determining the appropriate liftgate is how much weight and square footage is transferred on a daily basis on the vehicle, liftgate manufacturers say. This information is needed to determine the liftgate’s platform size and hauling capacity. Overloading a liftgate can be a potential safety hazard, and it could affect the liftgate’s performance over time.

Additionally, rust is an unavoidable reality with liftgates, according to liftgate manufacturers. Not only does rust on a liftgate have the potential to degrade the overall appearance of a liftgate, it could create problems in its operation as time passes. Therefore, depending on operating conditions, it might be worthwhile to consider additional corrosion and rust inhibitor exterior coatings.

Other important considerations are vehicle size; overall body width; where the liftgate will be mounted; and type of doors: overhead, rollup or swinging, the manufacturers say.

Beverage-makers also must consider the following questions:

  • Is a load retention system needed for bulky, wheeled or hard-to-handle cargo?
  • What material handling devices will be used while loading and unloading?
  • Are there any dock loading and unloading requirements?
  • How often is the liftgate going to be used each day?
  • How much power will be required by the liftgate’s batteries?

Liftgate types

Liftgates come in a range of models and load-carrying capacities. Common types of liftgates include the following:

  • Conventional: This type of liftgate mounts to the chassis frame. The loading platform stores in a vertical or upright position against the rear door.
  • Cantilever: Like a conventional liftgate, cantilever gates also mount to the frame of the vehicle chassis, and the loading platform closes in an upright position against the rear door. 
  • Flipaway, also referred to as stowaway, hideaway or tuckunder: This category of gates mounts to the chassis frame as well. The platform folds up and stores underneath the rear of the vehicle, providing unobstructed access to the door and cargo area.
  • Pickup truck models: These gates are mounted to the vehicle’s vertical posts and the truck bed rear edge. The platform stores vertically and is used as the tailgate.
  • Sideloader: This type of gate mounts below the side door of a truck body or trailer and can be either frame- or body-mounted. The platform stores under the body or trailer and is either unfolded or extended out from under the door.
  • Sliders: These gates typically bolt to mounting brackets that are welded to the vehicle’s crossmember. They work with either roll-up or swing-type doors. The loading platform slides in and out from underneath the vehicle on stationary tracks and stores completely under the vehicle.
  • Rail-type: This variety has vertical tracks that mount to a vehicle’s rear frame and store in a position against the rear door. The platform can be lowered in the vertical position to allow unobstructed access to the door and cargo area.

Lengthening product life

Drivers must understand and strictly adhere to the manufacturer’s suggested use of liftgates. Doing so maximizes the longevity and efficiency of any liftgate. Typically, the majority of problems occur when operators are not using the liftgate in the proper manner.

Another essential element to maximizing liftgate life and efficiency is to maintain oil and fluid levels in hydraulic pumps. The system’s hydraulic fluid is responsible for transference of power, perhaps the most critical aspect of a hydraulic liftgate. By maintaining the proper fluid level in the hydraulic reservoir, consistent function of the liftgate is ensured.

It also is imperative to clean and lubricate liftgates according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedules. When done properly, this minimizes minor issues with liftgate operation. BI

Five essential liftgate preventive maintenance steps

Preventive maintenance for liftgates starts with drivers. They need to be instructed that as part of their daily pre- and post-trip vehicle inspections, they should check the liftgate to make sure it is in safe and proper working order.

Regardless of the type of liftgate, officials at Anthony Liftgates recommend five essential steps that drivers should take:

1. Operate the liftgate.

2. Check the entire liftgate for damage.

3. Check all pivot points and fasteners.

4. Check for any hydraulic leaks.

5. Check to make sure all safety and warning decals are in place. BI