An articulating crane company has designed the drywall truck of the future with real-world needs in mind.

Robert's Diesel Works Inc. has been in business for 15 years and has been selling new wallboard and articulating cranes for three years. Last year, the company sold and delivered more than 125 trucks with cranes, nationwide.

Before acquiring its own crane line, the company repaired everyone else's units (more than 400 per month) for 15 years. This invaluable repair experience gave the company the education needed to design the "wallboard package of the future."

Bad truck

When Robert's Diesel Works decided to take the plunge and enter the world of truck-mounted crane sales, the company made a conscious decision to differentiate itself from the pack of other suppliers building cookie cutter, economically desirable packages.

Many years ago, the bar was set very low. It seems the standard was to design a wallboard truck that was based solely on low purchase price with no regard to long-term repair or maintenance costs. This unit, of many years ago (and today), has many problems.

For starters, this truck:

• Is unstable: One set of narrow spread outriggers results in "unstable sectors" around the truck.

• Is heavy: In most cases, old technology incorporating old logging crane philosophies (the heavier the better) have resulted in cranes that rob from overall payload capacity (which costs contractors dollars).

• Does not maximize legal payload potential (which also costs contractors dollars).

• Utilizes undersized truck components: Light axles, frames and suspensions have been the norm (which costs in long-term repair and maintenance costs plus lost payload).

• Is incomplete: Many trucks are being sold that do not have access ladders, tool boxes, cones and holder, ratchet straps and winch bar, water cooler, etc. In other words, it is not ready to go to work. Imagine buying a truck that still needs accessories added before you can use it.

It is not surprising (though it should be) that many professional installers do not even perform stability calculations or weight distributions on their units. It is no wonder many of these units do not maximize payload and are unstable, resulting in long-term revenue losses to the owner.

As a result of these design flaws, the cookie cutter package is not worth much after five years. The marketplace begins to trade or sell these units after three to five years because they know the maintenance repair costs are starting to eat them alive. Many companies begin to unload these units before the monetary losses become unbearable.

Good truck

Robert's Diesel decided to raise the bar when it entered the truck marketplace, to evaluate each and every truck and crane component, and develop a logical package that would solve the problems of the throwaway truck. Here are some highlights of the drywall truck of the future:

• Weight distributions and payload analyses are performed on the package. State weight laws are reviewed and the truck utilizes appropriate tag and pusher axles, front and rear axle capacities to ensure maximum payload capacity (which increases the truck revenue per load/ratio).

• Crane models have been developed to maximize capacity. Everyone can usually use a few more feet and a few extra pounds of lift capacity.

• The crane is stable in 360-degree configuration. A longer and stronger crane is of little use, if it is not stable. The drywall package incorporates four hydraulic stabilizers and is stable in all working configurations. Stable means safer.

• The crane incorporates electronic load moment limiting device. This is a fancy way of saying the crane will not "drift" down when in overload. The load is locked into place. Sensors on the main and outer boom cylinders monitor the pressures and send a signal to the ELMLD computer. Retracting the boom will reset when the pressures drop to a safe operating range. This removes any guesswork from the operator that could lead to crane damage (or premature wear).

• Chassis components have been carefully selected that remove excessive frame flex. Excessive frame flexing results in components shifting and loosening, and causes a crane to be unstable. The selection of a heavier frame and cross members result in a strong "platform" for the crane/bed package.

Proper GVWR and axle ratings-heavier axle ratings usually translate into more legal payload. Additionally, beefier components last longer. For a little more money, these components can be upgraded to provide a more substantial platform for the crane with reduced long-term maintenance costs.

A truck needs the proper combination of engine horsepower with the right rear-end gear ratio to perform in different terrains, under load at off-road and highway speeds. Additionally, transmission-proper gearing to handle the demands of a loaded wallboard truck is necessary.

Many more components go into the chassis. These include components that effect cab noise, driver comfort, turning radius, tire performance, level laden loading, drivability, grade ability, low-end torque, traction, driver vision, etc.

The bed package incorporates a heavy-duty body package that will not "washboard" and easily bend. Also, the boom rest is heavy duty with a custom designed steel fork lock mechanism (no more useless straps).

Options, such as automatic grease systems (automatically grease every fitting on the truck and crane), safety strobe lighting packages and radio remotes are normally found on the package.

Keep on ...

The marketplace has needed a package that would give a longer useful service life (with the lowest possible, long-term repair costs).

Currently, the hardest job is educating the marketplace. There are a number of wallboard supply companies that still think they are doing well if their trucks last five years. It is hard to change a mindset that has been developed over the last 25 years: that cheaper is better. Of course, when diesel engines started to take the place of gasoline engines in vocational trucks, many buyers back then were adamant they would never own a diesel engine. How many gasoline engines are there in vocational trucks today?

A quality drywall contractor needs to be willing to pay more for a package that will outperform the status quo, is cost efficient, is low in long-term repair and maintenance costs, is safer to operate, has a superior return on investment and is back loaded with benefits and value.