Escalera Hand Truck Makes Hauling Heavy Equipment Easier for Plumbing Contractors

Motorized stair-climbing hand truck improves job safety and productivity at Ohio plumbing firm.

Escalera Hand Truck Makes Hauling Heavy Equipment Easier for Plumbing Contractors

A plumber uses a StairCat motorized stair-climbing hand truck (Escalera) to move a 100-gallon water heater — weighing about 750 pounds — on his own to the truck. (Photo courtesy of Campbell Plumbing and Drain Cleaning)

Interested in Vans, Trucks & Fleet?

Get Vans, Trucks & Fleet articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Vans, Trucks & Fleet + Get Alerts

Campbell Plumbing and Drain Cleaning in Eastlake, Ohio, relies heavily on a silent partner of sorts that works without pay, improves on-the-job safety and efficiency, and never gets tired: a StairCat motorized stair-climbing hand truck, made by Escalera.

“We’ve had one since the 1990s,” Scott Campbell says. He co-owns the business with his father, Ray, who established the business, located about 15 miles northeast of Cleveland, in 1969. “It’s like always having an extra set of hands. One guy can safely move a water heater up or down stairs by himself. It does all the heavy lifting for us.”

Campbell says the StairCat is critical to operating the family-owned business, which focuses on service and repair plumbing and drain cleaning. In fact, when the company recently bought a new truck (a 2017 Chevrolet 4500 equipped with a 17-foot box body made by Unicell), they also ordered a second StairCat. “It was one of the top five things we ordered immediately after buying the truck,” he says.

The safety-enhancement factor the StairCat provides is huge, Campbell says. Anyone who hauls water heaters up flights of stairs knows how precarious it can be, even with two employees. And on-the-job injuries can raise the premiums paid for workers’ compensation insurance.

But the machine also increases productivity and profitability. How? Because water heater jobs now typically require just one plumber instead of two. That frees up the second technician to handle a different revenue-generating service call. That’s a big benefit for Campbell Plumbing, which has just three employees, he notes.

EASY MOVING

Powered by a rechargeable, 17-amp gel-cell battery and an electric motor, the StairCat has two different weight-capacity options: 700 and 1,200 pounds, with different height options available. The various models weigh anywhere from 75 to 83 pounds. All models measure 2 feet wide with a standard toeplate depth of 10 1/2 inches.

Campbell Plumbing owns a 700- and 1,200-pound model. It can easily handle 40- or 75-gallon water heaters, or even a 100-gallon commercial water heater. The unit even can move heaters still full of water and sediment, he says. Other contractors sometimes use it to carry boilers, and friends borrow it to move gun safes, he adds.

“Many times there’s no drain in a basement, so we have to take a water heater outside to drain it,” Campbell explains. “Every time we use the StairCat, customers are amazed. They say, ‘I was wondering how you were going to get that up the stairs.’”

The company also purchased a larger toeplate attachment for moving larger water heaters, as well as a so-called big wheel attachment. That’s the unit’s 10-inch-diameter pneumatic wheels that allow company technicians to easily move heavy water heaters over rough terrain. “We call them the ‘off-road’ wheels,” Campbell says.

Another accessory — a retractable load-support mechanism — provides two extra wheels under the body of the hand truck for more support when carrying large, heavy items longer distances. “With that attachment, one guy can safely move a 100-gallon water heater down a long sidewalk or hallway, and they’re not fighting any weight,” Campbell notes.

DOING THE CLIMB

With a frame made from a tempered aluminum alloy, the StairCat can climb steps as tall as 10 inches and automatically adjusts for different step heights. It uses two polyurethane lifting feet; two 4,000-pound-capacity lifting chains; and a system of hardened gears, sprockets, and ball bearings to climb stairs. The lifting legs lift the hand truck completely over the lip of a stair, which prevents it from damaging the edges of stairs, like a conventional hand truck might.

The 700-pound model climbs one step every four seconds; the 1,200-pound model climbs one about every six seconds. Operation is simple: Just position the loaded hand truck so its two belts touch the first step, tilt it backward, and flip a toggle switch to the “up” mode. That moves the machine’s two lifting feet into position to start climbing. To go down a flight of stairs, simply flip the switch to “down” mode, and the process is reversed.

DURABLE AND COST-EFFECTIVE

Campbell says the StairCats are very durable. In fact, in more than 20 years of use, the first StairCat compiled an admirable operating-cost record — just a new battery every four or five years and one new operating switch, he reports.

A StairCat’s suggested retail price is approximately $2,200. But Campbell says it’s well worth the money because of the value it provides in terms of increased productivity and profitability and reduced chances for serious injuries.

“But I actually don’t care as much about the economic savings,” he says. “We run a small family-business, and the less wear and tear I put on my body, the longer I can provide a living for my family. There are only so many years before I’m an old, banged-up plumber, but the StairCat will help me work longer and safer.”

The company also relies on a wide array of RIDGID drain cleaning equipment, including SeeSnake pipeline inspection cameras, CS6x monitors, K-40 cable machines, K-38 hand-held drain cleaners and SeekTech SR-20 locators. But where would Campbell Plumbing be without its StairCats? “I don’t even want to think about it,” he says. “You need to have the right equipment to do the job right.” 



Discussion

Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.