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Penny Hydraulics Cranes are Grand for BT Fleet

Penny Hydraulics Cranes are Grand for BT Fleet

Over 1000 compact cranes supplied by Penny Hydraulics are installed on vehicles owned by BT Fleet to handle a wide range of loads safely and ensure compliance with manual handling regulations. The majority of the 100kg capacity cranes, based on the popular Penny Hydraulics Miniloader, are installed on one tonne box body vehicles used by BT Group Lines of Business including Openreach and BT Wholesale. The cranes have been selected because they met BT Fleet’s exacting performance, weight and cost specifications.

According to BT Fleet, nothing on the market met its specification or fulfilled its requirement as well the Penny Hydraulics Miniloader. The organisation has installed the cranes for many years and they are now used for a range of tasks and where regulations dictate cranes must be used to avoid manual handling.

With its Headquarters based in Solihull, BT Fleet is the wholly owned subsidiary of the communications company that is responsible for managing a fleet of over 45,000 lease vehicles for other businesses within the group. BT Fleet also provides fleet management and maintenance services to a growing number of external companies with large fleets including The AA, Central Networks and British Transport Police. The success of the business is based on concentrating on its core activity of managing and maintaining operational vehicle fleets.

The one tonne box vans supplied by BT Fleet are used for a wide range of tasks. BT is currently upgrading its infrastructure to create its “21st Century Network” to deliver more connections with higher speeds to millions of business and retail customers. A variety of tools are carried on vehicles to help build and maintain this infrastructure but requirements are changing as the network migrates from copper to fibre-optic cabling. In the past, one of the heaviest items carried on mid-range vehicles was a compressed air cylinder used to pressurise copper cabling to keep out water. Compressed air is required less frequently today and can normally be supplied from a smaller cylinder carried by one person.

Now that BT is installing more fibre-optic cabling many vehicles carry a special blowing unit weighing 86kg that is used to install cables into underground ducting. This blower is defined by BT as too heavy for manual lifting. Engineers often work alone or in pairs and BT recognised that fitting a crane to its one tonne vehicles would help them handle equipment including the blower units without contravening general manual handling regulations and the company’s health and safety policy. In the past cranes had typically been installed on the exterior of the vehicle because of their size and how they were being used. This was expensive because additional mounting points and fittings were needed and it also led to security and maintenance issues as the working parts were always exposed.

As part of its ongoing vehicle replacement programme BT Fleet had refined the specification of its vehicles so that the rear doors were larger and opened wider. This offered the prospect of mounting cranes internally which would simplify installation and increase overall vehicle security as well as supporting a wider range of load handling tasks. The company devised a new specification for a compact, lightweight crane to handle loads up to 100kg with an integral winch so that items could also be lowered and raised in and out of man-holes directly from the vehicle without any need for manual handling.

The company approached Penny Hydraulics, which has supplied vehicle-mounted cranes to BT for over 20 years, to see if a solution meeting its specification was possible. Penny Hydraulics proposed a modified version of its popular Miniloader crane with a shorter boom and a less powerful winch to reflect the maximum weight of loads to be handled. The company redesigned the crane to make it lighter and simpler to manufacture. This redesign in conjunction with modern production techniques and pressure on suppliers led to the unit price for each crane being reduced to less than £500.

One of the features of the crane that particularly appealed to BT Fleet was the patented overload device on the electric winch. In general terms this works by continuously measuring the force on the winch drum. This is not as easy as it seems because the force changes as the rope winds on and off the drum and alters its effective diameter. Penny Hydraulics’ patented design takes into account this changing force to ensure that the overload point for the winch remains constant irrespective of the amount of cable on the drum. This means the lifting capacity of the crane remains the same through the full lifting range. The Penny Hydraulics Miniloader is the only crane on the market with this type of protection.

More than 1000 of the 100kg capacity cranes have been fitted on BT Fleet vehicles since 2001. At the peak of production over 50 were being installed each week and production is currently running at a quarter of this level for new vehicles with additional units supplied for retro-build contracts.

When customers need replacement vehicles BT Fleet places an order with a detailed specification incorporating any special equipment required with one of its preferred bodybuilders - including AssetCo Papworth and Anglian Developments - who then order the cranes direct from Penny Hydraulics. Each unit is supplied to the bodybuilder with a special mounting and fitting kit to simplify installation. BT Fleet now also specifies a special wiring loom for installation on all new vehicle chassis before the body is fitted. This makes it simpler, quicker and less expensive to fit ancillary electrical equipment such as cranes.

According to BT Fleet, nothing on the market meets its specification or fulfils its requirement as well as these cranes. Penny Hydraulics supplies spares direct to BT Fleet’s service depots when they are needed and the crane has proved to be extremely reliable.

The Penny Hydraulics Miniloader is a lightweight and compact crane designed to be installed on pick-ups, drop-sides, flat-beds or vans without affecting the storage area and carrying capacity. It folds away unobtrusively when not in use while an optional below-floor mounting allows it to be removed easily for transfer to another vehicle or to revert the load area to a conventional unobstructed flat floor. Remote control and overload protection are standard.

Penny Hydraulics designs and manufactures lifting and load handling equipment for use in a wide range of applications. Products include the Swing Lift range of medium duty cranes for use on pick-ups, drop-sides and flat-beds and the Step Lift, Load Lift and Tail Lift lifting platform ranges for use on pick-ups, drops-sides and vans. The company also manufactures the Mezz Lift for handling loads between ground floor and mezzanines and specialist equipment for handling wheels, tyres and barrels in vehicles and at customers’ premises. Penny Hydraulics is a privately owned family business based in Clowne, Derbyshire.

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