Interview: Elliott CEO on the future of truck mounts

Truck mount pioneer Elliott Equipment Company is paving the way for the all terrain utility sector in North America. Elliott’s CEO Jim Glazer explains the direction of travel.

This year Elliott Equipment Company (Elliott) is celebrating its 75th anniversary as a pioneer of the truck mounted market.

The L65 truck mount from Elliott Equipment Company. The L65 truck mount from Elliott Equipment Company. (Photo: Elliott)

Founded in Omaha by Richard Elliott, the company was one of the first producers of truck mounted platforms in the world and since then has become synonymous with the specialist utility construction and maintenance sector.

Through its range of rugged offroad equipment, which has grown to include truck-mounted cranes and digger derricks, Elliott has also helped develop the nation’s electricity grid.

The current and third ownership of Elliott acquired the company back in 1990 and is led by president and CEO Jim Glazer, who has been at the helm for 15 years and an employee of the company for 30 years in total.

In 1990 there were just two HiReach aerial models in the range, of 50ft and 80ft working heights.

Since then, Elliot’s HiReach and E line range has been expanded significantly to cover 48ft (14.6m) - 240ft (73m) working height units.

Other than the new E150, which is an innovative three-in-one solution for the utility sector, Elliott’s machines are telescopic and all are multi-functional, offering material handling as an option to combine lifting of people and materials.

“Our products are well known for electrical contractors in utility construction, particularly transmission construction,” explains Glazer.

“We also do very well in signs and lighting and municipal applications - so, a lot of highway departments and municipal maintenance, as well as bridge, rail and tunnel maintenance.

“The machines need to be robust and rugged for the work they carry out, and part of the reason for that is that they lift both people and materials.

“Our machines last 20 plus years; way beyond the life of a chassis so they can be remounted multiple times throughout their lives.”

It was in the early 2000s that Elliott entered the crane market. As Glazer explains, the truck mount crane sector was seeing a high degree of consolidation which was to Elliott’s benefit.

“We were based near to National Crane, about 40 miles away. They relocated after being bought by [crane giant] Manitowoc and so we were able to benefit in a number of ways including talent.

“We thought it would be a very good match as we are used to customising our products and we saw the crane market going towards a commodity approach, so it has served us well that way.”

Truck mounted aerial platforms

Nevertheless, Elliott’s chief focus is on aerials. “The cranes are a meaningful part of the business, but our focus is aerials and digger derricks, with our niche really in aerials.”

Within the aerial space, Elliott Equipment sits in a niche in itself, where, in general, the company is happy to remain. “We have a niche product (material handling truck mounted aerials) and we do well in our niche.”

Glazer adds, “There are opportunities to go beyond that. There are a lot of telescopic and articulated aerials that are 50ft and under but we don’t really participate there.”

However, one area where Elliott is finding increasing potential is in applications traditionally carried out by large self propelled boom lifts.

Specifically, in industrial applications where, Glazer says its truck mounted equipment can move quickly and easily from A to B, and has the combined flexibility and multi-functionality that provides the material handling that a MEWP cannot offer.

“We see opportunities in this space. Some of our rental partners are seeing that too and we are getting into applications we were not in before, such as auto plants, steel mills and petrochemical - there is good growth there.”

Elliott’s CEO Jim Glazer Elliott’s CEO Jim Glazer. (Photo: Elliott)

Asked why the time is right for Elliott’s aerials to move into the large boom lift space, Glazer answers, “The time has always been there but market awareness is now happening.

“Rental partners are making people aware of the product and showing them what it can do, and that is helping to drive the growth.”

Otherwise, the company’s goals remain in specialist applications, with another of those being mining, where equipment has recently been designed specifically for the job in hand.

For example, Elliott has mounted a powder monkey, otherwise known as powder blasting tank, and provided stainless steel platforms with hydraulic controls, allowing limestone to be chipped away while avoiding damage to the platform.

Alternative powered truck mounts

While there are no plans to move swiftly into electric or hybrid-powered equipment, such is the trend elsewhere in the industry, there is an environmental awareness in the design of Elliott’s latest products.

For example, material handling capabilities can be provided on the same chassis, meaning customers can buy one truck instead of two. And through reducing weight of components smaller chassis can be used overall.

Glazer adds, “As we service utilities, we are always looking to find fuel efficiencies, and we think that is the way to go.”

Rather than going down the electrification road, says Glazer, “A lot of our work is carried out in remote areas, so weight becomes a big factor going off road.

“Additionally, charging becomes problematic as you’re not near a super charger where this work is being done.”

An example of where the company has stripped back weight is on its M87 aerial platform introduced last year.

The stripped back M87 from Elliott The stripped back M87. (Photo: Elliott)

It has an 87ft (26.5m) working height and lifts 2,000 pounds (907kg) as a material handler on a light truck that can be driven without requiring a commercial CDL driving licence.

Nevertheless, the unit has a 77ft (23.5m) reach, which Glazer says was unachievable just a couple of years ago.

Innovation is also a key strategy in securing Elliott Equipment’s future in its core markets. The latest such item is the E150. (See box story).

As Glazer points out there is a clear shift towards working on live power lines, rather than shutting down the grid.

“It is not widespread now but it’s a growing trend,” comments Glazer. “When you think about how much it costs to have a line down – it’s tens of thousands of dollars an hour – it doesn’t take long to have a significant effect.

“Allowing us to work on them any time, including when they are hot will make a big difference.”

The future of the truck mounted platform market

Looking forward the company will continue to develop products by shedding weight while maintaining rugged durability.

“In a way, the North American market is becoming more European with the weight factor and equipment going on smaller trucks.

Apart from new models, Elliott Equipment has been adapting to its market in other ways. In April 2020 the company moved into a single production site.

Glazer says, “We got back from ConExpo that year and with Covid just starting we consolidated four plants into one, which means we have around 220,000 square feet of space and are able to do a lot with where we are right now.

“Being located under one roof improves our flow and manufacturing, quality and safety.”

After that the company operates via its distributors, of which it has around 45 in its main market of North America and secondary market of South America.

Work to upgrade the US electricity grid is bound to provide significant business in the long term. “We see a lot of future opportunities with the hardening of the grid – billions of dollars will need to be put into the whole grid in the next 20 years.

“And more electric cars on the road and the increase in renewable energy sources is also going to create opportunity.

“We see a lot of ups for us despite what the economy does due to the mega trends out there.”

Future proof design
The E150 is designed to provide flexible access to power lines. The E150 is designed to provide flexible access to power lines. (Photo: Elliott)

The new and innovative three-in-one E150 has been introduced to cover utility transmission construction and maintenance.

Typically, these applications require the use of two or three machines: a non-insulated construction aerial device capable of working in extreme environments; a material handler or light duty crane; and an ANSI Category A insulating aerial capable of working on live high voltage power lines.

An ANSI Category A aerial is typically extremely costly, around the $1 million mark, and due to this is infrequently used to protect it from damage, causing an expensive asset to sit idle up to 90% or more of the time. Furthermore, says the manufacturer, the need for multiple machines increases operating and maintenance costs and is harmful to the environment.

The E150 has an interchangeable patent pending Hot Swap boom system that allows users to perform all these related tasks with the single machine by easily changing the booms, which can all be supplied as options, in a workshop or onsite.

The up to 500kV ANSI Category A device uses the insulating upper boom option, while the articulating construction aerial uses the steel upper boom and the telescopic material handling aerial makes use of the material handling platform in lieu of the upper boom. Then there is the material handling boom, using the main boom winch.

The articulating modes of the E150 are further enhanced by the capability to articulate up to 60 degrees over-centre, which is a unique function. This provides access to powerlines from below and between phases, rather than starting from above. Users can also equip the machine with different platform sizes, to adapt to a range of working conditions.


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