Hooklift Vs. Roll-Off Cable Hoist: Which Is Right for You?


When it comes to loading containers or truck bodies onto a truck chassis, regions around the world have traditionally opted for different equipment. The North American waste and recycling market usually favors the roll-off cable hoist, while the hooklift has been more prominent internationally.

Wherever they are, companies are working to maximize productivity in their daily operations — including their number of picks per day. When evaluating which unit may be best for productivity, understanding the primary difference between the two systems is the first step, with that difference being how an operator connects to a container.

A roll-off cable hoist uses a cable that is manually connected to a container for loading and unloading onto a truck using a hydraulically operated reeving system. A hooklift uses a hook assembly to connect to containers, from the cab of the chassis, to load and unload on the truck. Both can provide loading and off-loading of waste and recyclable containers at any site, when matched with a properly configured truck chassis.

How does an operator decide which system is right for them? Ultimately, the best option depends on the application and systems already in place.

“The biggest reason that certain markets, including recycling and waste, use a lot of roll-off cable hoists still today is that their fleet of containers is set up for cable hoists, not hooklifts, and the cost to convert them means it usually doesn’t make business sense to do so,” said Tim Worman, senior product manager at Stellar®. “As we have looked at the variables between the two markets, the hooklift makes the most sense if you’re new to the business, or doing a large-scale equipment swap, due to the expense of converting containers for hooklift use.”

Yellow Truck with Cable Hoist

According to Worman, in North America, roll-off cable hoists are still most commonly used for refuse and recycling, mixed waste, scrap and C&D hauling.

“The refuse and recycling market is really where roll-off cable hoists live,” Worman said. “If you look at refuse, especially with larger setups, the roll-off cable hoist is the equipment that everybody uses because their containers are set up for it. Roll-off cable hoists fit well for big refuse collection companies. When you look at the recycling market, primarily scrap, they also use roll-off cable hoists. It’s a very mature market and that’s what they started with.”

While the roll-off cable hoist may be the right choice for existing hauling companies, Worman mentioned if he were a new startup in the hauling refuse or recyclables market, he would go straight to a hooklift due to their improved versatility, efficiency and safety gains.

The Benefits of Hooklifts

One of the key benefits of the hooklift is that it not only efficiently handles containers, but there is a magnitude of different bodies that can easily be swapped in and out. 

“There’s a litany of things you can do with that single asset for the job you need to do that day,” Worman said. “You don’t have to have five trucks sitting around, when one truck can easily be configured for different tasks using various interchangeable bodies. You can have one truck with five beds, and you just adapt to what you’re going to do the next day.”

Efficiency when collecting containers is another factor to consider when comparing hooklifts to roll-off cable hoists. With a roll-off cable hoist, the operator process limits the number of picks they can do per day. They have to get out of the truck, pull the cable out, hook the cable to the container, return to the truck and proceed to pull up the container. When they drop the container, this process is also followed, in reverse. This process happens with each pickup and drop of a container but not with a hooklift.

When working with a hooklift, an operator eliminates extra steps to hook to a container. The user can deploy the hook, back up to the container, hook the container and pull it onto the truck all from the truck cab. The elimination of continuously entering and exiting the cab with every pickup and drop greatly increases work efficiency.

We’ve looked at this closely, and in our estimation, if you were to switch to a hooklift, you could go from 10 picks per day to roughly 12 picks per day,” Worman said. “In this scenario, that would be a 12-percent gain in efficiency. By doing that with a single asset, you’re putting more money into the profitability of your organization.”

Hooklift with several attachments

Another important benefit of a hooklift is its ability to help maximize the safety of operation. It is key to remember that users of hooklifts and roll-off cable hoists should always check the jobsite before deploying anything, whichever system they use. There should never be people or obstructions around containers, the truck or overhead. 

“One element of the hooklift is that when the operator is dropping or picking up a container, they never have to leave the cab,” Worman said. “They can do it all from the comfort of their seat. The safer operation comes with a hooklift because you’re not putting the operator between the container and the truck at any time to hook to, or disconnect from, a container. That can’t be said for the roll-off cable hoist.”

“Another factor for safer operation of a hooklift over roll-off cable hoist is the mitigation of operators walking in unfavorable conditions, like mud, where they don’t have to drag the large, heavy cable through the environment to hook to the container,” Worman added. “With the roll-off cable hoist process, you could see an increase in injuries, such as back, hand or muscle pulls. These injuries are largely eliminated by having operators do the work from the truck cab — which they can only do with a hooklift.”

There are additional trends to investigate as you look into equipment. Advances in electronic controls, which allow for options like autoload and drop, or implementing multi-location camera systems to equipment are becoming more popular as well. With increased visualization and ease of operation, operators can increase efficiency and productivity even more.

Finally, your business needs will factor into your decision of which equipment route to go and even though demountable equipment may not change often or dramatically, there are plenty of incremental advances that are leading to more productive, efficient and safer products every year. 

For more information on hooklifts vs. roll-off cable hoists, get in touch with us.

A version of this article previously appeared in Recycling Product News, Waste Advantage Magazine and the Associated Construction Publications.