The equipment rental business is not a "will-call" business. Customers expect the equipment they order to be delivered directly to their jobsite; and frequently their jobs aren't in locations that make the delivery easy. Just ask Larry Workman, president of Illini Hi-Reach, whose company specializes in renting all sizes of aerial work platforms and telehandlers.
"Our customer base extends to about a 100-mile radius from our location in Lemont, IL, just south of Chicago," Workman explains. "We're making daily deliveries in all kinds of weather to customers in a variety of locations, and that includes downtown Chicago."
Low overhead bridges and overpasses encountered while driving to the customer, low ceiling heights or overhead obstructions at the delivery site, truck size limitations and varied dock heights are among the problems encountered. As Workman says, "If our drivers can't make deliveries efficiently and consistently on time, we might as well fold the company. Making the delivery on time to where the customers need it can make the difference between a profitable rental and losing a customer. We had to find a delivery vehicle that would be versatile enough to haul a variety of equipment to any location, could do it quickly, safely and at a cost that would maintain some profitability."
In downtown Chicago and some of the older cities in the Illini Hi-Reach territory, delivery drivers are faced with unique problems. They need to get to their destination and unload quickly, without blocking traffic or getting a ticket. Plus there are older buildings with loading docks that weren't built to standard five-foot heights. Sometimes deliveries have to be made at enclosed docks where ceiling heights aren't as high as today's newer buildings. A conventional tilt-bed truck can't be used to make a delivery in these locations because the bed cannot be lifted high enough to unload a machine. Cumbersome and potentially dangerous ramps were sometimes the only practical alternative to make a delivery, yet the time and manpower consumed to use ramps cost too much to make the rentals profitable.
Further complicating Illini Hi-Reach's deliveries is Chicago's unique Lower Wacker Drive — a major cross-town thoroughfare. The Drive is a bi-level roadway curling around Chicago's downtown area with the lower level primarily devoted to commercial vehicles. Skyscrapers line both sides of the Drive with loading docks on the lower level. In many cases, the Drive is the only practical way to travel in order to make deliveries in parts of the downtown area. Originally built in 1926 and only recently remodeled, the Drive can be a major impediment to deliveries because of the low overhead clearance and varied height of the loading docks that open onto it.
Workman needed a versatile truck to service his downtown Chicago customers, yet he had to find an economical alternative to a conventional truck and trailer or tilt-bed truck. His delivery fleet already had three Kenworth trucks with Trail-Eze 48-ft. beaver-tail trailers, which are great for making deliveries on big jobs with multiple scissor lifts or high-reach boom lifts, but not economical for smaller ones. Furthermore, they didn't have the flexibility to get into confined places. It was a problem because there wasn't enough volume of business that would warrant a specially made truck just for deliveries to docks located on Lower Wacker Drive, and he needed to put his capital into his aerial rental fleet, not in vehicles to deliver them.
He found the answer to his Wacker Drive and downtown Chicago delivery dilemma and a solution to making the deliveries throughout his diverse sales area in an EZ Loader Delivery Truck manufactured by Xtreme Manufacturing of Las Vegas, NV.
The unique feature of the EZ Loader truck purchased by Illini Hi-Reach is the hydraulically powered double-tail tailgate that unfolds from the truck bed. The two-part tailgate consists of a 9-ft. dovetail that rises above the truck bed, allowing the 63-in. flip tail to swing out from under the dovetail to form a ramp to the bed. In its closed position after a machine has been loaded, the dovetail tailgate is mechanically supported to provide better support and longer life. Since the dovetail only lifts 75 in. above ground level, there is no problem making deliveries to docks on Lower Wacker Drive or other Chicago locations where there is limited headroom. In fact, by using the EZ Loader, the Xtreme truck can make deliveries to any site where the unloading location is anywhere from ground level to a 75-in. high dock.
Other features of the EZ Loader deck include its 17-second deployment speed for faster deliveries and the diamond plate surface for better traction. There is also a winch installed at the bulkhead to pull machines on board that aren't in operating condition.
Bob Kostrba, sales manager at Xtreme Manufacturing, says, "These EZ Loader-equipped trucks are not only a great tool for rental companies like Workman's, but we've sold over 200 trucks to a diversified base of customers, especially contractors who need to get their equipment like skid steer loaders to wherever they're working. Accessibility to jobsites is a big selling point, in addition to how quickly machines can be loaded and unloaded once they get to the site."
The chassis and cab that Illini Hi-Reach chose for its EZ Loader is an International. Other available choices are from Freightliner or Ford, although Kostrba says Xtreme can install the EZ Loader on almost any brand of cab and chassis the customer supplies. He added that trucks with a 17-ft. main bed and 8-ft. 3-in. tailgate (25-ft. 3-in. overall length) are the most popular length for contractors.
Jon Basinger, who is Illini Hi-Reach's primary delivery driver for Chicago and other downtown locations, says, "I like the capacity of the International. I have carried as many as six scissor lifts on it at one time and have had no problem delivering and picking up machines as large as a 60-ft. straight telescoping boom lift. That's important because Illini-Hi-Reach rents more of that size boom than any other."
He continues, "I also like the choice of the International cab and chassis. Although other brands are offered, the International was chosen because there were more options that make my job easier. The automatic transmission and air ride make the driving experience like driving a premium car. And when you spend as much time in a truck as I do, that's important. I‘m on the road by at least six in the morning, and I don't go home exhausted after a day in that truck."
Workman sums up the acquisition of the EZ Loader truck by saying, "If your rental company has a number of customers that only need a few machines or need them delivered to difficult-to-reach locations, look hard at the EZ Loader. It's the perfect tool for delivering a small number of machines quickly, economically and safely. We don't have to worry over slippery surfaces caused by snow, ice or rain. One man is productive and safe with the EZ Loader. Although Illini Hi-Reach's business is centered around the rental of aerials and telehandlers, anyone that needs a dependable delivery vehicle can take advantage of the EZ Loader's utility and versatility."