Safety Outriggers for Bucket Trucks
Bucket trucks and other equipment that use a knuckleboom to raise weight above the height of the vehicle can easily be tipped off balance as the weight is raised. This unbalance poses a danger to the equipment, as well as equipment operators and other workers in the area.
Fortunately, most modern standard-production commercial equipment is equipped with safety outriggers. They work to securely stabilize the truck while the boom is in operation.
Be careful when purchasing a used, older model truck. Always make sure that the vehicle you are purchasing comes equipped with safety outriggers. If not, make sure to have them installed before using the knuckleboom.
What are Outriggers?
Outriggers are like extendable “feet” that keep bucket trucks and other utility vehicles balanced. They provide extra stability to prevent the vehicle from tipping or completely flipping over. When the truck’s outriggers are extended, it has the additional support it needs if the weight from the extended knuckleboom should cause it to lean.
Bucket Trucks and Center of Gravity
Bucket trucks and other knuckleboom vehicles are at risk for tipping over because they have a high center of gravity. If you remember back to high school physics class, the center of gravity is the imaginary point at which an object’s weight is evenly distributed and all sides are in balance.
The higher an object’s center of gravity, the more likely it is to tip over. Objects with a low center of gravity more difficult to unbalance and tip over.
When the boom on a bucket truck is raised, it drastically raises the truck’s center of gravity. This makes the vehicle more inherently unstable. This is especially true as the elevated weight of the bucket is maneuvered in different directions and angles.
When the weight above the vehicle’s center point becomes heavier, and the weight below the center point is insufficient to counterbalance, the vehicle is at risk of tipping over and potentially damaging the equipment or injuring personnel.
Outriggers and Accident Prevention
Outriggers work to keep a vehicle from tipping even when it is unbalanced. By providing external support, properly positioned outriggers prevent an unbalancing shift of weight. These extendable “feet” work almost like a bicycle kickstand. Extended in the direction of the bucket truck’s leaning weight, also the direction the vehicle is likely to tip, a dangerous shift of weight is prevented and the truck remains upright.
Developments in Outrigger Technology
The earliest outriggers were simple extendable legs and feet. They had to be extended and set in place manually. While this did a passable job of providing balance and support, it is not exact. Thankfully, modern advancements in technology have increased the safety and utility of modern outriggers.
Outriggers on modern bucket trucks and other commercial vehicles are electronic. They can be controlled and set in place remotely. They are also capable of balancing on various surfaces, including loose gravel and uneven terrain, conditions that are precarious for the less advanced manual outriggers.
Today’s electronic outriggers can position and set themselves automatically for the weight of the truck, the load being lifted, as well as surface conditions. This means more stability for your equipment and a higher level of safety for your crew.
While outriggers are an essential piece of safety equipment that should be included on every bucket truck, they do not replace proper training and safety precautions. Operators should be properly trained in all aspects of operation to prevent serious injury to themselves, their co-workers, as well as damage to the equipment they are working with.