Input from the maintenance staff resulted in this custom-designed and manufactured mobile work platform. Photo: Jim Park

Input from the maintenance staff resulted in this custom-designed and manufactured mobile work platform. Photo: Jim Park

Having reefer technicians work on ladders is both unproductive and dangerous. At the Erb Group, workers were running up and down ladders all day fetching tools and parts while doing visual inspections and maintenance on the units. The risk of a fall is ever-present when climbing a ladder with something in your hands.

Erb adopted scaffolding systems some time ago, but they were only marginally better than ladders. Parts and tools could be placed on the scaffold, but they could also be accidentally kicked off. And climbing up and down from the scaffold still involves a straight ladder.

In search of a solution, Erb asked its maintenance staff what might work better. Input from the staff resulted in a custom-designed and manufactured mobile work platform.

The side facing the work is wide open, but it is protected at the sides and rear. The work area of the platform measures about 8 x 3 feet and has a large shelf for parts and tools, as well as a work surface.

Keith Hartung, manager of the trailer and reefer shop at the Erb Group’s New Hamburg, Ontario, terminal helped design the work platform.

“We worked closely with the technicians to get their input on the design,” he says. “They are much happier with these than the older style scaffolds, of which we still have a few.”

Reefer technicians can do most of their work on the platform. The technician controls the height of the work platform according to his or her preferences, and the access stairs are sloped for easier and safer entry and egress.

When not in use, they can be easily rolled around the shop by one person.

These mobile work platforms were part of a larger reorganization of the maintenance department generally. The company recently opened a new maintenance facility at its New Hamburg terminal, but before shovels hit the dirt, Hartung and his team literally reinvented the maintenance workflow. The new worker-friendly shop facility was designed for optimum productivity, efficiency and safety.  

For example, with most of the specialty reefer work done at one end of the shop, that’s where the parts room was located.

“We took a careful look at how much time was wasted walking back and forth from the parts or the tool crib,” notes Hartung. “This new layout is much more efficient than the old one.”

Erb Group’s new trailer and reefer maintenance shop includes some other thoughtful and innovative features, including all new LED lighting with walls painted white for better illumination. Garage doors on the east side of the shop were fitted with two extra rows of glass panels to take advantage of the available sunlight. 

The reefer shop has three back-in bays, and it’s equipped an overhead two-axis crane for the heavy lifting, such as when replacing a reefer unit. Hartung says that’s now basically a two-person job. 

Fleet Snapshot

Who: Erb Group of Companies

Where: New Hamburg, Ontario (U.S. Division: Erb Transport Inc., Elverson, Penn.)

Fleet: 500 power units, primarily International ProStars, 200 straight trucks, 1,200 refrigerated trailers, more than 150 owner-operators.

Operations: Refrigerated, primarily LTL

Fun fact: The Erb Group of Companies very nearly never happened. In the mid-1950s, when company founder Vernon Erb announced that he wanted to be a truck driver, his father was dead set against the idea.

Challenge: Making reefer maintenance easier and safer for technicians.