Paying More for Your Conveyor

May 1, 2003
It used to be that elevator safety authorities stuck to regulating vertical reciprocating conveyors. Now theyre taking aim at all conveyors. (VRCs are

It used to be that elevator safety authorities stuck to regulating vertical reciprocating conveyors. Now they’re taking aim at all conveyors.

(VRCs are enclosed platforms that mechanically or hydraulically lift and lower loads between two or more levels. A VRC is cheaper than a freight elevator, which is why elevator authorities — many of whom have a financial interest in that industry — have tried to regulate VRCs out of business. In some states regulation included shutting down the VRCs with red tags: elevator authorities were nicknamed Red Taggers in those states.)

Recently, all conveyors are being targeted by elevator safety authorities. Today’s regulation is not so much a way to put the equipment out of business as it is to make a buck for the states. These new Red Taggers are in cahoots with members of the elevator installers union. The bottom line is that you’ll pay more for your conveyor installation.

States are hungry for income — just read your daily paper to find out how broke your state is. So one solution is to license conveyor installers for a fee. The legislature just has to pass a law saying do it! And the elevator union will make it so.

The State of Connecticut, for example, has something called a Limited Conveyor Contractor’s License which says: “The holder of this license may perform only work limited to installation, maintenance, alteration or repair of equipment, apparatus or machines used to convey materials.” That puts conveyors under the jurisdiction of the Connecticut Elevator Installation, Repair and Maintenance Work Examining Board. That’s one thing you don’t want to happen in your state.

Already members of the elevator installers union are passing out templates that tell how to set up a licensing program. Manufacturers, distributors and users of vertical reciprocating conveyors have fought elevator regulation for more than a dozen years, and now it’s come back in a new form. They know what happens to industrial equipment when it’s put under elevator jurisdiction: prices will go up and senseless rules will be written.

I haven’t heard any regulation proposed for conveyors in my state, you say. It hasn’t happened yet for a number of reasons:

• Legislatures haven’t exhausted other, more profitable, sources of revenue yet. Like taxes on cigarettes and whiskey.

• Members of the elevator union don’t understand conveyors. The A17.1 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators is a thick 200-plus page guide to elevators while the B20.1 Safety Standard for Conveyors and Related Equipment contains fewer than two dozen pages. Without the comfort of text to guide him, an elevator inspector is lost.

• Elevator unionists tend to write A17-type tests for licensing, which is illegal as an unreasonable and arbitrary restraint when it comes to conveyors. So the idea of licensing conveyor installers just won’t fly without challenge in some states.

• Licensing of any type is a messy procedure that can drag on for years. So maybe the template thing hasn’t sunk in yet. Or maybe it’s stuck in committee.

One thing is for sure: states are desperately looking for revenue. I’ve heard that nowhere is this more obvious than among the freelance elevator inspectors hired by some suburbs (my information source comes from the Chicago area). Out in the boonies the inspectors — I call them bounty hunters — have no trouble passing themselves off as legitimate inspectors of real elevators as well as vertical reciprocating conveyors; they even get away with inspecting dock levelers and scissors lifts. Since they’re paid on a per-inspection basis, conveyors would fit nicely into their basket of goodies.

There used to be a saying in Red Tag circles: “An elevator is anything I say it is.” That could include conveyors. Bernie Knill, contributing editor [email protected]

Latest from Technology & Automation