Will the Lift Market Rise in 2010?
With an estimated 6500 vehicle lifts sold last year, this essential part of a working garage’s life cannot be ignored. And as long as there are lifts, those using them need to be aware of how they can protect their safety and maximise the potential of their investments. In order to find our more Tyres & Accessories recently interviewed Garage Equipment Association (GEA) chief executive, Dave Garrat.
GEA members sold 5247 vehicle lifts, according to the last full-year figures in 2008. Add another 20 per cent for the remaining non-GEA members operating in the market and it is clear that at least 6500 vehicle lifts were sold in the UK last year. And what’s more, despite the global economic meltdown that began in the second part of 2008, this number represents an increase over the 2007 figure. This year’s figures are not expected to be so good as, in line with the rest of the business community, the lift sector has experienced its fair share of belt tightening this year, with garages and fast fits delaying purchase during the course of 2009. However, according to Dave Garratt, this doesn’t mean there has been a boom in sales of low-cost machinery. Rather, it is said to have brought equipment maintenance into sharper focus.
While the tyre market has been experiencing something of a de-segmentation trend – where customers have opted for a cheaper priced product than before, in the garage equipment segment there is said to be an emerging trend towards opting for quality: “The market is changing, garages are now looking for quality, too many have had their fingers burnt by buying cheap equipment,” Garrat explained.
What seems to have happened is that an earlier influx of low-cost Chinese equipment brought prices down, but disappointed customers. According to Garrrat, “many [low-cost imported] chemise lifts are not CE approved and garages are becoming aware, so are beginning to look for quality and assurance of CE approval.” And what’s more, the latest generation of lifts are offering better features than ever. For example, most new four-post and scissor lifts can now be fitted with play detectors, which are said to be “wonderful for finding worn steering and suspension components.”
With new legislation on the horizon, market observers are optimistic that there could even be a generalised market recovery in 2010. That’s because on 1 January garage equipment’s equivalent of s-marking and tyre labelling laws (The New Machinery Directive) comes into force. This means that all lifts sold from the 1 January must meet the new directive – something that any garages planning to buy after that date would do well to pay attention to.
Safety first: ‘always use GEA accredited engineers’
Whether your trusty lift is still lifting away merrily and the only time you meet an engineer is for an equipment service, or if your old lift is clapped out you are looking to buy a new one, the advice is the same. “Always use GEA accredited engineers for installation and service of lifts,” Garrat suggests.
A quick read of the Health & Safety Executive’s motor vehicle repair (MVR) industry advice alerts readers to risks such as vehicles falling from two-post lifts where arm locking systems are either not fitted or are defective. One particularly example given is where the mounting pads on the carrying arms’ vehicle pick-up plates are missing, badly worn or contaminated by oil or grease. This may sound over dramatic, but to avoid this and less serious problems, six-monthly inspections are recommended in most cases – which is where the GEA’s accreditation scheme comes in.
The GEA accreditation scheme, which saw its first fully qualified engineers graduate at the end of 2008, quizzes technicians about their LOLER, PUWER and BSI knowledge. Engineers are trained and then assessed at the GEA offices in Daventry. The assessment, which takes place in a classroom environment and is computer based, is based on 60 multiple choice questions. Only those correctly answering over 70 per cent of closed book questions during the final assessment are GEA accredited. As a result, GEA believes that “the knowledge of these regulations together with good product and skills training creates a competent engineer.”
Engineers from Maywood Equipment Group were amongst the first to announce their qualification in February 2009, following the scheme’s launch in December 2008.
For reference, here’s a list of GEA members supplying vehicle lifting equipment: Actia Muller (UK) Ltd; Autoparts Garage Equipment Services; Boston Garage Equipment; Bradbury Equipment; Butt (JHM) & Co Ltd; Codi International Ltd; D & H Equipment & Service; EGSCO; Euro Car Parts Ltd; Everquip Ltd; Garage Equipment Group; Garage Equipment Services (GES); GEMCO Equipment Ltd; HH Lions Equipment Ltd; Hickleys Ltd; Jack Sealey Ltd; Laybury Garage Equipment Ltd; LiftMaster Garage Equipment Ltd; MAHA UK Ltd; Oakmain Ltd; Oxet Ltd; RAV Equipment UK Ltd; Rotary Lift (UK) Ltd; Somers Totalkare Ltd; Stertil UK Ltd; Straightset Ltd; Tecalemit Garage Equipment Co Ltd; The Trade Group; and Unipart Automotive.