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Why Are Aerial Platforms Called Cherry Pickers?

Why Are Aerial Platforms Called Cherry Pickers?

Construction equipment regularly receives rather unique nicknames, but one of the oddest nicknames in the entire construction industry is the one that has been used for the boom lift for nearly 80 years.

The versatile construction, logistics and agricultural companion officially known as a mobile elevated work platform is often known as a cherry picker, but unlike the name “jitney” being used for forklift trucks or JCBs as a genericised trademark for excavators, the cherry picker name is far more literal and has a fascinating story behind it.

In 1944, a Sunnyvale, California native by the name of Jay Eitel (12th August 1916 - 10th June 2012) was frustrated as he spent another day picking cherries using the standard but awkward and fairly dangerous traditional method of setting up a ladder, climbing up, picking some cherries and then moving the ladder across.

He hated the inefficiency of it so much that he decided to design a machine that would make it easier, spending many of his summer evenings and weekends tinkering and ultimately coming up with a highly manoeuvrable solution.

Built onto the back of a van in a similar configuration to mobile cranes, the original cherry picker was designed to be easily operated with one hand from the lift’s bucket itself, allowing someone to move around a tree without having to get out and move the lift itself.

This made what was a gruelling summer chore far more of a joy, but this was far from the limits of the truck’s potential.

He started his own company, Telsta, after the end of the Second World War, and the system became a pivotal part of rapidly expanding telecommunications networks, as wires could be placed directly onto masts from a moving truck.

Ultimately, this invention allowed Mr Eitel to claim 65 patents and he would live a full and productive life until his death at the age of 96.