There has always been an argument about the benefits of one type of loader versus the other type of loader in the waste industry. While the major waste companies are partial to cable loaders, many of the smaller haulers have gone to or started their operations with hook loaders. So, which way should you go? We take a closer look at these types.
By Andy Jansma

Among many cities, contractors, waste haulers and other users, the money-saving benefits of cable loaders, hook loaders and hydraulic hooklifts for trucks are well known. You can purchase a single cab and chassis and equipment with your choice of a cable hoist, hook loader or hooklift. Next, you will buy as many different roll-on/off truck bodies to swap out as your operation requires.

Kenworth T370 with 31,000 lb. hooklift and F165 Fassi crane.
Photos courtesy of Ampliroll.

With any setup, you can mount and haul a container on one occasion, a tanker body the next, a dump body later, and so on. Some users swap bodies seasonally while others like scrap recyclers might do it many times a day.

Your big-ticket purchase—the cab and chassis—rarely sits idle. Unless operating a fleet, you register, license and insure only one vehicle, and hire and train just one driver. So, which way should you go? Let’s take a closer look at these types.

Cable Loaders
There has always been an argument about the benefits of one type of loader versus the other type of loader in the waste industry. It is a known fact that all of the major waste companies are partial to cable loaders while many of the smaller haulers have gone to or started their operations with hook loaders.

One of the major reasons that the bigger waste haulers are using cable loaders is the fact that these companies in most cases started their operations prior to hook loaders being introduced into the U.S. market. They all have an extensive infrastructure in place that would entail great expense to convert over from cable to hooks. This
includes the thousands of containers currently set up for cable operation use only.

Cable loaders employ a winch and a cable to pull containers or other bodies up onto the truck’s bed. Of course, compatible roll-on/roll-off bodies must have a hook in the front to connect with the cable. As the name implies, the containers also need to have nose rollers and rear wheels so the cable can pull them up on the chassis.

Rails on both the truck bed and the containers align loading. Most cable hoist-equipped trucks have two rails that are about 35 inches apart, while the containers have two rails that are approximately 36 inches apart. Cable hoists are the more common of the two types of roll-on/off systems. In selecting one, you will:

• Enjoy greater (initial) familiarity with them, as more drivers and mechanics are likely to have operated one.
• Expect a greater selection of used cable loader trucks and bodies from which to choose, if seeking to go the pre-owned route.
• Operate with low clearances. Because of their lower-angle roll-on/off capabilities, cable-hoist systems are better for placing containers underneath overhead obstructions, in buildings or within other enclosed structures.

That being said many commercial haulers are moving into the residential or homeowner waste areas and have been purchasing smaller hook trucks and containers to service this new market. A market based around 10 to 15-yard containers instead of the popular 30 to 40-yard containers are common to the commercial waste market.

Cable loaders in general are slightly less expensive than comparably rated hook loaders, but at the same time maintenance costs are much lower for hook loaders. There are no cables that have to be inspected on a timely basis to preclude safety issues to the drivers and operators.

Hook Loaders
Waste hauler drivers generally prefer driving hook loaders for a multitude of reasons, but largely due to the fact that the driver, in most cases, never has to exit the vehicle to complete a load/unload cycle. A cable loader driver may have to exit the vehicle three to four times to complete this same cycle. Needless to say, most drivers would much rather drive a hook loader especially when it is snowing outside or is 10 degrees below zero.

These systems do away with truck-mounted winches and cables. As the name implies, hook loaders mount a large, hydraulic-powered hook behind the cab. Drivers back up to a body, connect the truck’s hook to the container and lift and roll it up and onto the chassis. Compatible bodies require a front hook attachment point and rear wheels because the hook loader both hoists and hauls them onto the truck bed. Many users swear by hook loaders, and for several excellent reasons:

  • Load (and unload) in a fraction of the time as cable hoists because drivers do not need to get out and extend, attach or retrieve cables. Many operators report hauling more loads per shift thanks to the efficiency of hooklifts
  • Improve operator safety and reduce owner liability. Unlike cable hoists with controls mounted outside, hook loaders are operated from controls within the cab. Drivers are well shielded and far removed from moving machinery. What is more, they have less need to walk on icy, muddy or otherwise slick surfaces for hookups.
  • Allow loading/unloading in tighter spaces, and in exact positions. Cable hoists need more fore-and-aft or horizontal open space than hooklifts to load or drop-off a container.
  • Permit off-center approaches. When picking up, hooklifts can engage a container up to 60° off-center. Operators spend less time seeking that perfect lineup. Even younger drivers can get the hang of hooklifts faster. With a cable hoist, the stingers of the rail must be in almost perfect alignment with the front wheels of the container.
  • Handle elevated loads such as those on loading docks. Cable hoists can only load from raised platforms if they are about the same height as the rails on the truck and if the rig can back up flush to the platform. As for unloading on elevated docks, with a cable system you are out of luck; they do not have that capability.


Current DOT requirements state that cable loader bodies must have safety chains secured to the body once the loading cycle has been completed and prior to moving the unit. Hook loaders, due to their different method of securing the container to the loader, do not have this requirement.

Most containers manufactured today, especially dual purpose units, are compatible and have rail dimensions usable with either hook or cable loaders. There are far more aftermarket bodies available for hook loaders today due to the different securement method they use. A hook loader user may change over one day to a waste grapple/body, to a lube system, and back to a waste container, all in a minimal amount of time.

Making the Decision
Due to the large infrastructure investments bigger waste haulers currently have in cable loader systems and containers, it is not economically feasible to make a complete changeover to hook loaders at this time. However, a company thinking of entering the waste market today should consider hook loaders in lieu of cable loaders, if not for the safety concerns, then for the fact that the productivity increases inherently in hook systems. This also holds true for large commercial waste haulers entering the residential waste or recycling market where hook loaders are now taking the lead. | WA

Andy Jansma is the U.S. General Manager for Marrel Corporation (Rockford, MI), Ampliroll Division. He has more than 35 years of experience with hook loaders and other waste equipment. Andy has also designed many types of specialized equipment for use in the waste industry. Ampliroll Hooklift Systems are manufactured by the Marrel Corporation—the inventor of the dual-pivot hook loader in 1969 and first again in bringing them to users across the U.S. in 1980. Today, Ampliroll supplies premier hook loader systems and associated equipment. Ampliroll offers a complete selection of truck-mounted accessories and roll-on/off bodies that they can supply as a package with their hook loaders, allowing for single-source acquisition. Customers select from aerial lifts, cranes, grapple systems and more. Also choose from cement mixers, dump bodies, flatbeds, septic pumpers, waste containers, water tankers and other interchangeable bodies. In addition, customers can select from Ampliroll’s line of high-quality pre-owned hooklift vehicles. For more information, call (616) 863-9155, e-mail [email protected] or visit


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