HOOKED IN

Palfinger’s Hooklift for light commercials could develop into a real trend – Words by David Garcia

With its relatively small population, Australia often looks abroad for commercial vehicle technology. We adopt emissions standards along US, and European lines (often years later) and import most of our light and medium-duty commercial vehicles. We are essentially ‘technology takers’ by virtue of our small market size.

While we do have a very strong local commercial vehicle bodybuilding scene, with plenty of innovative manufacturing going on, sometimes an idea comes along that sparks a ‘why didn’t we think of that’ moment.

Such was the case on a recent visit to hydraulic transport equipment specialist Gough Transport Solutions (GTS). GTS is the Australian sister company to Palfinger Australia, distributor for the well know Palfinger range of products that includes truck-mounted knuckle boom cranes, Epsilon forestry and recycling cranes, marine cranes, Crayler truck-mounted forklifts and Palift hook loaders.Palfinger_1

Hook loaders are a regular sight in Australian construction zones, usually as part of a skip bin service for large-scale commercial and domestic waste removal. As such, the set-up is normally the exclusive domain of larger trucks with ample GVM to handle bins that range anywhere from 4 m3 to over 20 m3.

The normal scenario is that one of these big bins is dropped off for a few days, it gradually gets filled, and is then picked up when done. Then you get slaughtered with local government waste disposal fees that are more expensive than the bin hire itself, but that’s another story. The truck doesn’t stay waiting on site for the bin to be filled and is free to attend different jobs servicing other clients and therefore increasing efficiency and productivity.

Setting eyes on the Palift ‘City’ C3 hook loader, which was neatly fitted to a car licence Iveco Daily 45C17 cab/chassis, you come to the realisation that hook loaders don’t have to be only for large trucks. At under 2000 mm width, the truck and hook loader combination is well proportioned to fit into domestic driveways, to navigate tight city streets, or be parked at the roadside, without causing disruption to traffic or pedestrians.

Looking at the truck’s dimensions it’s easy to see why the idea for this body has come from Europe. With a high population density, heavily built-up areas, and some cities with Roman-era roots, space is at a premium. Given these circumstances, Australian bodybuilders can probably be excused for not having come up with the idea of a micro hook loader, instead concentrating their efforts on more traditional tipping style bodies.

Palfinger_2The City hook loader was first introduced into Australia last year and has since created understandable interest, considering the versatility of the unit and easy fitment options onto a range of cab/chassis.

At present, it’s available in one model and can be fitted onto trucks ranging from 3.5 to 5.5 tonnes GVM. Weight of the mechanism and tray is around 355 kg, which on the Daily cab/chassis still allows for a handy payload of up to 1.8 tonnes.

The tray on this demonstration unit is solid and a high quality build, consisting of full aluminium alloy construction with internal measurements of 3400 mm x 1900 mm. There are drop-side panels (left and right) allowing loading or unloading on both sides, while the rear is equipped with swing-out gates. At each corner of the tray is a tie down point to secure loads, the tray can be ordered in conjunction with the Palift City C3 or the unit can be supplied less the tray.

For those wanting different tray specifications, perhaps with higher sides for volumetric loads or other application-specific requirements, Palfinger can refer the buyer to reputable bodybuilders to have the tray or bins custom-made.

The unit has the versatility to be used in a similar way to a traditional tipping body or as a walk-in (or drive in with the use of optional ramps) style bin. Unlike a traditional tipper, however, which if being loaded by hand needs the content to be manually lifted to waist height to get it onto the tray; the City’s tray is much more comfortable to fill, when at ground level, saving a lot of back-breaking work.

The system is also fast operating, with the tray being fully unloaded from the cab/chassis in less than a minute – loading the tray back onto the truck takes the same time.

Given the quick changeover time, Palfinger suggests that the operator could have several tray bodies in use at the one time, serviced by a single truck and therefore minimising the need for a larger truck fleet.

Depending on the business, another option might be to run a range of different bodies such as enclosed box style, a bin for waste, or a water tank with pump unit – the combination could be customised by the owner. It’s the commercial vehicle equivalent of a multi-tool, allowing the owner to tailor the body depending on the specific task at hand.Palfinger_4

Operating the hook loader is done via a simple hand-held remote control device that is wired back to the control valve of the hook loader, which in turn is powered by the truck’s PTO. Once on site, all the driver does is engage the truck’s PTO via a dash-mounted switch then the remote comes to life. The remote features intuitive, illustrated buttons making it extremely user-friendly for the operator. A long lead allows the user to exit the cabin to get a better, and safer view, during the tray loading and unloading process.

The more compact dimensions of the City hook loader open opportunities for it to be used for a broad range of tasks that a full-sized hook loader could never do.

Palfinger is targeting the product towards landscape gardeners, lawn mowing businesses, nurseries, tradespeople, earthmoving contractors, and for local government use. It’s not difficult to imagine the City hook loader successfully at work with any of these end users.

As pictured in this feature, the unit with its all alloy tray can be supplied and fitted by Palfinger for around $20,000 plus GST. Fitment to most European cab/chassis takes only a day with kits available off the shelf, thus eliminating the need for fabrication. Under most circumstances some of the cab/chassis’ existing mounting points can be used to affix the loading mechanism.

The kit also includes mudguards, chassis-mounted side protection bars and work lamp fixed behind the cab, for when coupling and uncoupling the tray in diminishing light.

While fitment to a European light truck is the fastest and most cost-effective option, if the customer would like to use a Japanese cab/chassis as a starting point, this can be organised, but it is a slightly more complicated and lengthy proposition that will take two to three days in the workshop and some additional costs.

On paper there’s a lot to like about the City hook loader. It’s simple to use and versatile, but, like anything new, it may take a little while to catch on. Having said this, Palfinger is confident that it’s only a matter of time before this little hook loader becomes a favourite with operators currently using traditional tipping bodies, as well as other prospects that would never have considered this style of body before.Palfinger_8

Palfinger breakout box

Palfinger is an Austrian brand that has been manufacturing cranes for over 80 years and is recognised as a global leader in this field. Its cranes have been available in Australia since late 1977, and in 1991 the company was incorporated to form Palfinger Australia.

In 2010, Palfinger Australia was acquired by New Zealand’s Gough Group and in doing so propelled the group into the top 10 dealers globally for Palfinger products.

The Gough Group is now New Zealand and Australia’s leading value-added solutions provider to the infrastructure, mining, forestry, transport and power system industries, operating a network of over 50 locations across Australia and New Zealand and employing over 850 staff.

The group’s business interests extend to equipment, transport and materials handling, and finance.

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