A sidelifter or sideloader is the fastest option for a lorry driver to deliver or load a container, but how should it be positioned?
There are several makes of sidelifters available in the UK, including Hammar, Steelbro, Combilift, Swinglift and BoxLoader. Each one has more than one option as regards stabiliser leg type, and they all have their own idiosyncrasies. Sidelifter operators should have an understanding of the basics of picking up a container (they should have completed sidelifter training). However, there are some quirks that get missed by newer drivers.
Undiagnosed soft ground
You arrive in your sidelifter and with an empty container. You put it where the client requests. It’s on dirt, but your legs aren’t sinking in. That week, it rains while the client is loading the container. Now there’s a heavy container which, itself, is starting to sink into the now wet dirt (i.e. mud) and when the driver comes to pick up the container, the sideloader legs punch through the surface. Even blocking pads can’t quite cut it, and the wet mud is now quite sticky, making it even harder to lift the container off the ground.
When delivering, watch for patches of ground that look like they might have been muddy in the past (you can tell, for example, if there are deeper tyre tracks across it.
This is most dangerous when you are unloading. When you’re loading, you know if there’s going to be a problem – as soon as you start lifting, the legs will either sink in, or the trailer will start to tip. However, when you’re unloading, you won’t know this until it’s too late and perhaps the stabiliser legs sink into the ground causing the trailer to lean and then topple over.
Some sidelifters have stabiliser legs that are further apart than others. The further the legs are apart, the more inconvenient it is if someone parks one container close to another (end-to-end). In this case, you should definitely not drag the container because you can bend the arms. However, arms that are further apart give a bit more leeway for loading on a forward- or backward-facing slope without the container hitting the legs. When loading on a slope, it may be necessary to individually control the cranes in order to get one corner located and then try to bring the other three corners in alignment. This is incredibly hard on the twistlocks and is not recommended.
It’s best not to load a sidelifter on ground sloping more than 2 degrees.
If a container is parked too close to a wall it will be difficult for driver with leg-over stabilisers vs telescopic stabilisers, as the leg-over stabilisers could hit the wall. This encourages the driver to drag the container closer, which can easily overstretch the chains. When you drop a container off, check where the client wants it and if it’s close to a wall, ask whether it will be picked up by another sideloader.