For its part, Genie’s towables feature a pictograph system on both ground and platform controls to make it quick and easy to get right to work, Northcott says.
Some models are designed for the use of accessories in the basket and offer standard air and water lines in the boom. Some also feature an accessory tray for a generator, compressor or pressure washer usage.
Auto leveling is a popular feature on today’s towable models and is offered by JLG, Genie and Haulotte/BilJax. “Genie’s patented automatic leveling system allows the operator to hydraulically deploy the outriggers and level the machine to one degree, in as little as 30 seconds,” Northcott says of the TZ-34/20 and TZ-50 trailer-mounted articulating booms with working heights of 40 to over 55 feet. “Combined with the pictograph controls, the Genie TZ-Booms are intuitive to use, minimizing the amount of training required from the rental yard. With some training, towables are within the capabilities of most novice users.”
Quite simply, towable booms have the user in mind, with easy-to-understand controls and commonality with the platform and ground controls, Becher says. “A read-through of the operators’ manual, decal review and short familiarization with the rental yard attendant will make a homeowner or novice comfortable with the controls,” she says. “Our lifts feature 30-second outrigger deployment, so after you’re positioned and unhitched from the tow vehicle, the auto level button and outrigger down button make the machine set-up very quick.”
Lightweight and level
While easy to transport, towable booms are not made to move around a jobsite with the boom extended. Most towables today offer a drive and set arrangement so the operator can walk behind or drive the machine from the platform in the stowed position.
Because they can’t be driven with the boom extended, towables are not designed for every application. Towables are, however, ideal for applications where vehicle weight is a concern. The platform on towables is typically made of aluminum, whereas on self-propelled models, it’s steel. This is done to keep the weight down.
In fact, a 40-foot self-propelled boom typically weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 pounds. Towables, on the other hand, hover around the 3,000-pound mark, enabling them to work on the upper levels of structures where a lot of weight is undesirable. They are also less damaging to turf, so landscape professionals can operate them with less fear of disturbing lawns or flower beds.
One way towables achieve a lighter weight is through the use of outriggers as opposed to counterweight, which provides self-propelled models with the stability necessary to rise to high heights. As a result, a towable’s footprint is larger, usually about 14 feet across. Despite the wider wingspan when in use, towables can fold up to just 3 feet 6 inches, making it possible to fit into tight spaces.
In addition, the outriggers offer a leveling capability and a firm lifting base of operations that is beneficial in areas of great land undulation. Some towables can level themselves on an 11° slope, while most self-propelled booms have a 2 1/2° slope capability.
Despite their lighter weight, towables are just as reliable as comparative self-propelled models. “Our machines are simple — no computer cards, just straightforward, tough units, built to last,” says Angus Davis, president of AmeriQuip, which makes a line of straight and articulated booms available with electric, gas or diesel power with platform heights from 40 to 47 feet. “There are many 18- to 20-year-old units still in the rental market today.”
A question of stability
If their light weight and leveling capability are defining characteristics of towable boom lifts, the next question to follow is often, “How stable are they?”
Experts agree that towables are just as stable as self-propelled boom lifts. They’re required to meet safety standards just like self-propelled models. It’s the perception of stability that is sometimes in question. Keep in mind, when your customers are up in the air, they don’t look down on a big base beneath them, but they do have a 14-foot spread from the outriggers.