Both hook-lift and cable hoist systems have unique advantages (and disadvantages) of which must be considered during the decision making process. Spending careful time researching which system best suits your equipment, customer needs and budget are important factors that can impact profitability.

By Bill Weber

Roll-off trucks and containers are essential equipment for collecting and transporting material for the recycling and solid waste industries.
Roll-off trucks have one of two common hoist systems: hook-lift and roll-off cable hoist systems—each of which has a different method of
loading and unloading waste containers. This article will explore a few of the advantages and disadvantages of both. Although both hoist options offer ground level loading, the hook-lift system is better designed to accommodate loads that are elevated such as those positioned on a loading dock. The cable system can only offload from an elevated platform if the platform is the same approximate height as the rails on the truck and the truck can back up flush to the platform. As for unloading on a flat elevated dock, cable system rolloffs do not have that capability.

Cable Hoists

Cable hoists are more suitable for unloading at sites with limited overhead clearance, inside or out. With a cable system you can set containers at a much lower “dump and pick angle”, adjusting the angle of the hoist/rail to maintain clearance. In essence, a cable hoist is more suitable for placing containers in an enclosed structure (building) or below overhead obstructions because of lower angle unload capabilities. Conversely, because hook-lifts load and unload on the same geometric plane, the box would need to be placed almost completely on the ground and then backed or pushed into position. Making “raw” contact with a box is not recommended due to the potential of damaging the sidewalls of the container.

Hook-Lift Hoists

Hook-lift hoists provide more accuracy in dropping containers in an exact position. In addition, a hook-lift set-up is more suitable when maneuvering into and out of tight spaces. A cable system invariably needs a bit more horizontal open space to drop and load a container.
With hook-lift hoists comes added convenience and efficiency for the roll-off truck operator. Having a hook system does not necessarily require the driver to leave the cab of the truck to drop or pick up the container. Whereas with the cable hoist, the driver must physically latch the cable onto the front hook of the box. Although leaving the cab of the truck can be perceived as an inconvenience, as an added safety precaution experienced and credible drivers will leave the cab to visually inspect the container and its contents for potential issues before loading anyway.

Lifting and Pulling

When considering the basic rationale between lifting and pulling, cable hoists are generally more suitable for servicing heavier loads. Rather than lifting from back to front on the same geometric plane, cable systems pull the weight up the rails. In addition, having the ability to adjust the incline of the rails as the load is being pulled reduces stress and tension on the actual cable. Hook-lift hoists are more forgiving in terms of “lining-up” with the load. Hook-lift systems provide the ability to engage a container up to 30 degrees off-center when picking
up. Whereas with a cable hoist the “stingers” of the rail must be in full alignment with the forward wheels of the container. Another reason why a hook-lift is more desirable when maneuvering space is limited.

Flexibility

In terms of serving varying lengths of waste containers, the cable hoist design provide more flexibility. Any length is serviceable as long as the container does not extend beyond the tail end of the rails. Hook-lift systems are designed to carry bodies within 3 to 5 feet of
the shortest recommended body.

Conduct Due Diligence

Both hook-lift and cable hoist systems have unique advantages (and disadvantages) of which must be considered during the decision making process. Spending careful time researching which system best suits your equipment, customer needs and budget are important factors that can impact profitability. That being said, take the time and conduct due diligence during the buying process to help ensure the system you decide on is best for your business.

Bill Weber is Vice President of Franchise Support for Redbox+ (Winona, MN), a national franchise system specializing in construction and demolition waste collection and disposal. Bill has more than 30 years of experience in the franchise and business development, residential remodeling and waste disposal industries. Bill can be reached at (507) 452-8242 or e-mail bill.weber@redboxplus.com.

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