CORTLAND, NY. The Automotive Lift Institute (ALI) officially opened its new headquarters and LiftLab with a grand opening celebration at the 8,500-sq.-ft. facility on Thursday, Oct. 12. Lift inspectors and engineers from around the world will come to Central New York to be trained here, getting hands-on experience with 12 different lifts – from a motorcycle lift to 74,000-lb. mobile column lifts.
Before the celebration began that evening, the ALI Lift Inspector Certification Program wrapped up another of its two-day classes with inspectors from Texas and Arkansas in the state-of-the-art facility. Lift inspectors and manufacturers from around the world are expected to visit the new ALI headquarters, which has been quietly open since March. ALI member manufacturers have provided and installed 12 vehicle lifts in the LiftLab. They range from the smallest motorcycle lifts to the most common two-post style, all the way up to heavy-duty in-ground and mobile column lifts. This is the only facility in North America that brings together such a range of operational lifts from various manufacturers and makes them available for hands-on industry training, according to the institute.
"Through the generous support of the ALI member companies that produce North America’s certified vehicle lifts, we are able to facilitate opportunities for candidate lift inspectors, product safety engineers, and others to come to a single location to examine two-post, multi-post, scissors, in-ground, mobile column and low-rise lifts," said R.W. “Bob” O’Gorman, ALI president. "This will enable lift inspector candidates to more expediently meet the requirements of the Lift Inspector Certification Program, which will help address increasing customer demand. At the same time, we can improve the technical skills and knowledge of the experts charged with testing and certifying future vehicle lifts."
O'Gorman said that every five years, lift manufacturers will have the opportunity to enter a lottery to have their lifts installed at ALI, which plans to stay up to date with the latest technology.
There are currently 21 ALI-member lift manufacturers, with six-nonmember firms producing ALI-certified gold label lifts; and another six, O'Gorman said, who have started the process of getting the ALI gold label of approval, which adorns all lifts that meet this third-party certification.
The lifts installed in the center — more than $500,000 in equipment – are stripped of their branding. "We ask everyone to leave their competitiveness at the door and focus on safety," O'Gorman said. "These manufacturers understand the benefits to the industry and safety."
Established by nine lift manufacturers in 1945, ALI was headquartered in New York City until relocating to Indialantic, FL, in 1993. ALI moved its headquarters to Cortland in 2005 and has since grown from two employees to eight as the organization has expanded its safety-focused activities (and it is looking to hire a second engineer).
With the trucking industry facing a technician shortage, some heavy-duty lift manufacturers contend that getting mechanics out of the pits could be appealing to the next generation.
"From the folks that I talk to, my understanding is that there are more and more young guys who are coming through the tech schools that are actually being exposed to some of the newer equipment, and it’s my belief, from some of the folks that I’ve talked to, that newer equipment is making the job easier from an ergonomic standpoint and from a safety standpoint," O'Gorman said, noting that ALI is not in the sales business. "All of this equipment that has any electrical features within 18 inches of floor is tested and certified to meet the hazardous locations requirements for workplace safety. Basically in a shop that’s where the gas fumes and the exhausts are – and that’s always been an issue with pits.”
The following lifts are installed in the ALI LiftLab:
To add a little excitement to the lift lab O'Gorman brought in some classic vehicles to lift up. A 1946 Brockway 260XW, one of the first postwar, heavy-duty trucks to be built in volume — right here in Cortland — sits on one of the heavy-duty lifts. A 1969 Plymouth Road Runner, which O'Gorman is restoring on his own time, sits on another lift. And a 1958 Allstate motorcycle, which was a Sears brand, sits on the lone motorcycle lift at in the LiftLab.
Thursday's grand opening celebration drew more than 50 people from around North America — including ALI members, lift inspectors, suppliers, and others in the vehicle lift and workplace safety industries.
Along with the LiftLab, the new facility at 3699 Luker Road is four times larger than ALI's former Cortland office. It includes 3,575 square feet of renovated office and conference space, a modern classroom for 20, video boards, sharply designed instructional posters, and more.
ALI is dedicated to the safe design, construction, installation, service, inspection and operation of vehicle lifts used in automotive and heavy-duty vehicle repair shops throughout North America. It sponsors several national lift safety standards. ALI also offers third-party certification programs for vehicle lifts and lift inspectors.
Through its Lift Inspector Certification Program, ALI qualifies, tests, and certifies vehicle lift inspectors. There are 465 ALI Certified Lift Inspectors and 842 individuals from around the world participating in some stage of the certification process. In 2014, ALI expanded its membership beyond North American-based lift manufacturers to include an associate class. ALI Associate Class membership is open to companies with at least one ALI Certified Lift Inspector on staff. There are currently 268 associate class members.
ALI offers a wide range of vehicle lift safety training materials including printed copies of all the safety standards, the new Lifting It Right online training course, new Automotive Lift Safety Tips Card and Safety Tips Poster, the annual Vehicle Lifting Points guide, and uniform warning labels and placards.