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5 Things You Must Know When Choosing a Freight Lift Elevator (Vertical Reciprocating Conveyor)

Did you know there are significantly different safety standards associated with operating a device that lifts people versus one designed solely to be a freight elevator or conveyor?

In 1981, PFlow helped enact legislation that separates “material-moving” vertical reciprocating conveyors (VRCs) from passenger elevators.

Over the following decades, PFlow has continued to innovate—offering freight lifts (otherwise known as VRCs) that vertically convey materials of all shapes and sizes. If you only need to move materials, VRCs provide greater productivity, enhanced safety, and notable cost savings. Here are 5 things you must know when choosing a freight lift elevator (VRC):

1. VRCs Differ from Passenger Elevators

The biggest difference between VRCs and elevators is that VRCs cannot transport people.  Here are some other key differences: 

  • Installation Versatility: Because VRCs are regulated differently than elevators they can be placed in locations inside and outside of buildings where it is not legal to put an elevator. Common VRC placements include, but are not limited to, in an existing elevator shaftway or hoistway, next to a mezzanine or pick-module, through a floor or from an outdoor dock level to an upper floor of a building.
  • Operation: A VRC cannot be operated from inside the moving car—and this is a huge difference from any elevator you are likely to have ridden inside a public building.
  • Loading/Unloading Versatility: Unlike elevators, VRCs offer a variety of loading and unloading patterns that enable maximum utilization of space.
  • Weight Capacity: Most passenger and freight elevators are Class A elevating devices that limit the weight of a “one-piece” load to 25% of the elevator’s stated capacity, and can only be loaded/unloaded via manual means or hand truck.  Alternatively, a VRC’s weight capacity is limited only by the type of VRC, (hydraulic vs mechanical) size of the carriage and added options.
  • Overall Cost: VRCs are typically less expensive to install, operate and maintain than elevators.

2. The Reason Why Freight Lifts (VRCs) and Elevators for People Are Regulated Differently

freight lift
In the United States, there are very different operating standards and regulations for installing and running a commercial elevator that moves materials or equipment and one meant for transporting people.

ASME A17.1 is the national code standard for elevators and escalators. These devices can carry people and also be used as freight elevators. While passenger and freight elevators have the versatility of carrying people and materials, they are held to much more stringent code regulations than VRCs which equal higher up-front costs and more frequent maintenance.

Because VRCs move only materials, PFlow’s founder, Bob Pfleger insisted that VRCs did not need to be held to the same stringent requirements as people-moving elevators. In 1987, PFlow was successful in helping implement ASME B20.1, the national code standard for conveyors and related equipment and the standard by which vertical reciprocating conveyors (VRCs) are governed. B20.1 devices must transport materials only. They are not meant to be operated in general proximity to the public and are designed for controlled commercial and industrial applications. Because VRCs do not carry people, VRCs can be installed and operated where elevators cannot. 

ASME B20.1 ensured that the installation and operation of VRCs was not only safe but cost-effective. When only materials need to ride in your freight lift elevator, installing and maintaining a VRC will be significantly less expensive than an elevator that can transport people.

3. Benefits of Choosing a VRC Over an Elevator

If you operate a commercial or industrial facility that does not need to transport people, a VRC could be the perfect choice to transport materials to and from multiple floor levels. Benefits of installing a VRC versus an elevator are:

  • Lower upfront and continuing maintenance costs
  • VRCs are customized to your lifting application’s requirements:
    • Load capacity
    • Load/unload patterns
    • Number of levels serviced
    • Cycle frequency can be unlimited/continuous
    • Indoor or outdoor use
    • Installation in existing elevator shaftway
    • Explosion-proof components
    • Finishes for outdoor, wash-down or clean room environments
  • Integration with horizontal and automated systems

It is important to note that VRCs are commonly referred to as freight elevators, though in the eyes of the federal government, they are not the same.

4. Selecting the Right Material Lift (VRC) for Your Application

If you are looking for a safe and cost-effective way to move only materials, not people, within your facility, a VRC freight lift is a great choice.  To help you select the right VRC for your application, ask yourself:

  • How high do you need to lift materials?
  • How often do you need to lift them?
  • How heavy is the payload you are lifting?
  • How are you lifting those materials now?
  • Do you require a specific loading/unloading pattern?
  • Are gates and enclosures required?
  • Where will the lift be installed?

Read more about how to select the right material lift for your application.

5. Vertical Reciprocating Conveyor (VRC) Cost

The overall cost for a VRC will vary based on several factors including, but not limited to:

  • Type of VRC (hydraulic vs mechanical)
  • Carriage / platform size
  • Load capacity needed
  • Number of levels of access
  • Installation location
  • Added options / accessories

With many factors to consider, the best way to obtain a precise cost is to talk with one of our VRC experts.

A VRC offers substantial total lifetime cost savings over an elevator. Improved safety, increased efficiency, and highly customized solutions are just a few of the many benefits you’ll get from installing a VRC at your facility

Learn More About Your VRC Options

If you’re interested in VRCs, there are two main types of VRC material lifts–hydraulic and mechanical. Click below to learn which one is right for your business below or contact us directly and we’ll answer any of your questions.