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Why Vertical Reciprocating Conveyors Are Not Classed as Elevators

Why Vertical Reciprocating Conveyors Are Not Classed as Elevators

If You Don't Need to Move People, VRCs Are Less Costly

There are around a million elevators in the United States, each carrying an average of 20,000 passengers per year. These handy machines allow us to live and work at incredible heights. Even better, they make living together in big cities possible.

And there is a similar device of equal importance to our perpendicular transportation needs. That’s the vertical reciprocating conveyor.

Let’s take a quick look at what VRCs are, how they differ from elevators, and why they are not classified as elevators.

What Is a Vertical Reciprocating Conveyor (VRC)?

A vertical reciprocating conveyor is a safe, cheap, and easy way for moving cargo from one level of a structure to another. They are common in many industries, and they are not used for transporting human cargo.


  • They are used in the back end of warehouses, industrial complexes, and institutions.
  • They are used for moving materials between the ground, mezzanine, basement, balcony, an upper level, and a rack storage system.
  • VRC lifts are installed either into the floor, into the interior or exterior of a location, or into an elevator shaft.
  • VRC elevators work using either a mechanical or hydraulic lifting device, a carriage that stores cargo, and a guiding column.

What Is an Elevator?

An elevator is a similar mechanical device. The key difference is the cargo: Elevators are designed for use by human passengers. However, they are also capable of carrying material.

Why VRCs Are Not Classed as Elevators

Typically, elevators are only installed where they’re needed. That means the average elevator sees a lot of use. And a lot of use means a lot of wear and tear.

Here’s why that’s important:

  • If an elevator breaks down or is overburdened, the passengers inside could fall several stories. This means they could be injured or killed.
  • VRCs, on the other hand, are only cleared for carrying material. So, if a VRC fails, the main problem is that the owner may lose some money.

This is why PFlow helped to change federal safety regulations. These changes specifically exempt VRCs from the stringent safety requirements that affect elevators.

So, What Are the Regulations?

VRCs must adhere to a national code known as the ASME B20.1. In addition, each state has its own specific regulations, too. For example, in Massachusetts, government agencies control the installation, maintenance, and repair of VRCs.

Elevators must adhere to the much stricter National Elevator Code compared to VRCs. This code has stringent safety checks in place, as freight elevators can carry people.

Why Classify Them as the Same Thing?

The elevator industry is competitive, which means things can get a little vindictive and cutthroat. And, because VRCs are so much cheaper to operate, elevator authorities often lobby for the same strict safety standards for VRCs. This would give the elevator manufacturers a competitive edge over vertical conveyor manufacturers like us.

Put simply: They have a vested financial interest in adding unnecessary regulations. This is because it reduces competition.

What Are We Doing About It?

Here at PFlow, we’re committed to combating the implementation of backward legislation that stifles business. We played a major role in changing national safety codes back in 1981, and we have continued to fight against unfair practices by the elevator industry today.

Learn more about vertical reciprocating conveyors on our blog. Or check out our many VRC and material handling products.

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