CEO Michele McDowell in American Journal of Transportation

CEO Michele McDowell in American Journal of Transportation

Wiggins Lift and CEO Michele McDowell in the American Journal of Transportation

Wiggins Lift Co., Inc. and Michele Wiggins-McDowell was recently featured in an article in the American Journal of Transportation. The article highlights Wiggins’ use of the latest technology for safety, durability, efficiently, environment-friendliness, and strength. Noting that Michele may be the first female CEO of a forklift design and manufacturing company, the article continues:


As the third-generation Wiggins to become the chief executive officer of the leading manufacturer of marina forklifts in the world, Michele will tell you that her blood lines may have provided the connection, but her qualifications for the job are a result of learning the forklift business from the bottom up.  She began working at the Wiggins factory in Oxnard, California at age fourteen.

Michele is the daughter of second generation Wiggins CEO Mike Wiggins, and granddaughter of company’s founder Mel Wiggins. She began her career running parts, working as head janitor, office assistant and lead go-for. After a four-year separation to attend college at Abilene Christian University, Michele returned to the factory as director of purchasing and then chief financial officer before taking the helm after father Mike Wiggins stepped down. Mike still works and has assumed the title of president of the company.

Wiggins is the world’s leading manufacturer of marina forklifts, shipping product throughout the globe. They have designed the world’s largest marina trucks, used to lift yachts from the water, transport them back to boat storage facilities and insert them into their multi-level slots. Wiggins has also produced forklifts for the agricultural fields of California, for the U.S. military, for nuclear power plants and specialty lift trucks for the marine terminal industry…

To read the full article, visit AJOT.

HAVE IT YOUR WAY: Wiggins Marina Bull for options AND support.

HAVE IT YOUR WAY: Wiggins Marina Bull for options AND support.

Before 1974, fast food restaurants were food assembly lines: you got what was on the menu and didn’t ask for options because they weren’t available.

Then Burger King released a campaign saying that at their place, you could “have it your way.” The jingle became famous:

“Hold the pickles,

hold the lettuce,

special orders don’t upset us,

all we ask is that you let us serve it your way.”

It was a customer-oriented: offer a standard menu of options that satisfied most people, but allow a customer to make special requests. Today, most fast-food places allow options on their standard items.

That’s not true in the marine forklift industry. Most lifts are assembly-line products. You buy only what they offer, with relatively few options. If you have an unusual request, forget it.

But Wiggins is customer-oriented and always has been. Our mottos are “Built for the owner, designed for the operator” and “Tell us what you want; we’ll build it.”

For a marina lift, “one size” does not “fit all.” Every marina is different. Different building constraints, a different collection of boats, and different needs.

All Wiggins Marina Bulls come with standard components, of course, such as a Kessler drive axle, a Cummins engine, and a Dana transmission. These standard components are durable and high-quality, just like the Marina Bulls we put them in.

Engines and Transmissions

  • Cummins 110HP, 121HP, 154HP, 160HP, 190HP, 220HP, 250HP
  • Cummins 121HP, 173HP, 220HP Tier 4
  • Ford V10 LPG
  • Volvo 140Hp, 174HP, 215HP D5, 215HP D8 Tier 4
  • Dana Clark 20000, 32000 transmission
  • Funk DF250 transmission

So many options—with security for parts and service.

But if your marina has a different preference, we’ll customize it. No matter how unique the request—as long as it’s safe and effective, we’ll make it your way. That’s why we are the leader in the marine forklift industry, with more satisfied customers than any other manufacturer. We put our customers’ needs first.

We can customize nearly every aspect of our Marina Bull to fit your marina’s wants and needs. That includes what you would expect, such as height, engine, and tires, but also things like hydraulic control configuration or even step design.

Concerned about getting parts and service for customizations? No problem. We have been servicing and supporting our custom machines for almost 70 years. Before we allow any part to be put on a Marina Bull, we make sure it meets our rigorous performance and safety standards, and that we can support that part in an exceptional manner. If a component fails either of those tests, we’ll work with you to find a suitable option, because we don’t put substandard parts on Wiggins lifts. In additions, we have parts and service centers all over the USA, including support through Taylor SSI.

Do you want an AxleTech or a John Deere axle? A Ford LPG or Volvo Penta Tier 4 engine? Something else? We’ll do it, as long as it meets the high level of performance the Marina Bull is famous for.

Don’t settle for a one-size-fits-all, assembly-line approach. With Wiggins, you’ll not only get a high-performance, durable, and custom machine—you’ll receive the highest quality service and parts support, too. No other manufacturer offers customization, quality components, and support like Wiggins.

Drive Axles

  • Kessler D81
  • John Deere 1200, 1400, 1600
  • AxleTech PRC1756, PRC1794, PRC3806, and PRC 7534.

Tell us what you want, we’ll build it.


  • Pneumatic
  • Black solid
  • Non-mark solid
  • Lug or smooth

Have it your way—with confidence.

World Cargo News: Wiggins Chooses Volvo Penta

World Cargo News: Wiggins Chooses Volvo Penta

As we announced on our blog last year, we have adopted the Volvo Penta for Tier 4 Final-compliant machines. Our first unit was a Yard Bull for the Port Hueneme, California docks; the second was a Marina Bull at Bolton Landing marina in the Finger Lakes in New York state. Many more have followed since.

World Cargo News published an article on the adoption, with detailed background on the Penta engines, as well as some further information on Wiggins Lift’s success last year in the marina market and our ground-breaking Marina FLX.

Wiggins Yard Bull—High capacity with strength and confidence

Wiggins Yard Bull—High capacity with strength and confidence

Wiggins Yard Trucks—High capacity with strength and confidence

Wiggins has been engineering and manufacturing yard trucks for almost fifty years. We know a thing or two. And because we work with each customer to manufacture the machinethey need, our lifts outperform the competition in performance, durability, and safety.

Lifting capacity and stability are two of the most important characteristics of a yard truck. Wiggins specializes in high capacity forklifts, and our units can safely and reliably lift more than any competitor’s lift when compared model to model. For example, to match the lift capacity of our Yard Bull 550 model at a 48″ load center, you would have to buy a 600 or 620 model from one of our competitors. Our customers save money on maintenance and repairs by buying the right model for the right job. You don’t need to overbuy with a Wiggins Yard Bull.

Our Yard Truck LoPRO has the lowest center of gravity and the heaviest counterweights in the industry, ensuring that you can lift the heaviest loads with confidence, typically lifting the full rated load to the top.

Wiggins Yard Bull means capacity, strength, safety, and durability.

How to Think About Lift Capacities, Load Centers, and More

How to Think About Lift Capacities, Load Centers, and More

Sometimes the image of a teeter-totter (see-saw) is used to explain how forklifts work. This analogy is okay as a beginning point about the physics of counterweight. Yet it hardly begins to address what is needed for lifting a boat.

The Teeter-totter Analogy

Imagine a teeter-totter that is 20 feet long. We want to place a 35-pound child on one side, 5 feet from the end. If want the see-saw to remain balanced, you would place a 35 lb weight on the other end, 5 feet from the end. It “counters” the child’s weight and placement perfectly. Simple, right? This is the concept of “counterweights,” just as on a forklift.

If you moved the child a foot farther out (four feet from the end), his leverage makes the see-saw unstable, and the child hits the ground, crying, because you are not an engineer. The same would happen if you placed a 45-pound child 5 feet from the right end.) Moving the counterweight back a foot, or adding the properly-calculated weight to it, would achieve balance. This is similar to how forklifts work.

The problem with this analogy is that a teeter-totter does not move, turn, brake, or go downhill like forklifts do.

Moreover, the shape and weights of children on a see-saw are usually not like loads lifted by forklifts—and this is especially true of boats.

Delving into Load Capacity and Load Centers

A better explanation uses the image of a forklift itself. After all, few adults would not be generally aware of what a forklift looks like. So, imagine a forklift.

Suppose that the load we wish to lift (and move!) is a large obelisk—a huge, rectangular weight. This obelisk is 40 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 1 foot thick. (If you have seen Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey film, you have the idea.) Our obelisk weighs 5,000 pounds.

Manufacturers let you know the capacity of a lift by telling you what weight (“load”) can be lifted at a certain distance out on the forks (“load center”). Let’s say this forklift has been designed to lift this obelisk, as it sits vertically on the forks, 2 feet out from the carriage:

The manufacturer tells you that this lift can hoist “5,000 pounds at 24-inch load center.” If you put the centerline of the obelisk 2 feet out on the forks, standing vertically, it will lift it. (At the moment, we’ll ignore how high it could lift it—that depends on counterweight, too, because of gravity and other forces). However, if you moved the obelisk one foot farther out on the forks, the lift would become unstable and fall forward.

Forklifts Move (Teeter-totters Do Not)

But there is more to consider. If the lift was designed to lift exactly 5,000 pounds at a 24” load center, and you braked too suddenly while moving it, the lift would also become unstable. Just like when you apply your brakes in your car, the stopping motion produces energy that transfers weight forward, and front of the becomes momentarily "heavier" than the back before it returns to normal. The load did not move forward, but the overall weight distribution did. (This is really an issue of mass, momentum, and the earth's gravity which creates imbalance.) The same would happen if you drove downhill—the vehicle becomes "heavier" in the front.

What we are talking about here is really the “center of gravity.” This is the point or division along a mass ("load") where there is the same weight behind it as in front it. That point is called the center of gravity, and it changed not only from shape to shape, but by increasing or decreasing speed, braking, and traveling up or down slopes.

Therefore, to ensure that our 5,000 pound obelisk can be transported safely while driving, turning, braking, and driving on slopes, it has to be capable of lifting _more_ than 5,000 pounds at 24” inch load center. A salesman might tell you, “Oh, you don’t want to buy that more expensive 5,000-pound @24” lift, when ours will lift 5,000 lbs at 24-inch load center for less money!” It might, but how quickly can you brake in an emergency without creating imbalance? How much of a slope can you traverse without losing the load? Most likely, the cheaper lift has less counterweight and strength in its structure.
If you only plan on lifting a single kind of weight, and never wish to transport it anywhere, then the cheaper lift will probably work fine for you. Otherwise, you may be well on your way to accidents.

Forks, Carriages, and Masts Matter Too!

Furthermore, lift capacity and movement are not the only considerations. A lift might be fully capable of hoisting a load at the capacity you need to the height you want. It might be capable of handling turns, slopes, and braking. But what if the steel of the forks, carriage, or mast is not high grade? What if the axles are at the minimum to handle the stresses put upon it?

The Bottom Line

Wiggins lifts are engineered with these issues in mind, and manufactured using high-quality steel and other components. Some have said that Wiggins forklifts are “overbuilt”—we say they are designed to be tough, dependable, and to get the job done safely. Other manufacturers often scrimp in order to undercut pricing. As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” Wiggins lifts are the standard by which all others can be judged.

Lifting boats raises a whole host of other physics and engineering issues—which Wiggins has been addressing for decades. We’ll look at the unique issues of marina lifts in a future post, and discuss how Wiggins solves those engineering challenges, too.

Marina Lifts —The Problem and Solution to Load Capacity

When a marina owner or operator wants to buy a marina lift, the first question is usually “what capacity?” How big of a boat does it need to lift, and how high?

The answer to that question is not as simple as one might think. In our last post (“A Brief Note on the History of Marina Lifts and Capacity”), we discussed how the terminology for forklift “capacity” was not developed with boats in mind.

The First Problem

In brief, the 36” or 48” “load center” terminology was not coined for lifting boats. Boats are heavy in the stern, light in the bow , and longer and narrower that regular forklift loads. Manufacturers began to specific 96-inch load centers (eight feet), yet even as early as the 1990s, boats had 10’, 12’, and even 15’ load centers. Accidents happened because of the lack of an easy and precise terminology.

The problem was exacerbated when marinas began asking to lift 40- and even 50-foot boats. Some manufacturers began using 144” load centers (12 feet!), but this didn’t solve the problem.

Operators just want to move boats, and do it safely. Using a 96” and 144” load center capacity is not the easiest or most precise terminology.

The Second Problem

Because boats are so long, with unusual weight distributions, they place heavier stresses on the carriage, mast, and forks of a marina lift than regular forklift loads.

For example, 5,000 pounds at 36″ puts 50% more stress on the forks and carriage than 5,000 pounds at 24”. When we lift a 42’ boat heavy at the stern and a bow that extends well beyond the forks, the stresses on forks, carriages, and masts are far more than typical non-marina loads. Accidents happen because some manufacturers do not build beyond the capacity of a typical 96” or 144” load center, necessary for these added stresses. (Wiggins Marina Bull are built 30% to 50% stronger than other forklifts designed for 96” load centers for this very reason.)

So, 96” and 144” load centers:

  1. do not accurately reflect the load center of any boat
  2. give no indication of the strength of the carriage, mast, or forks to lift any particular boat

The Wiggins Solutions #1: Build to the Boat

Wiggins spent many decades thinking through all these issues. We constantly research, test, measure, and innovate. We engineer, design, and construct our lifts to the largest boat a customer needs to lift—not to a 96” or 144” load center. Easy for you, standard for us.

The Wiggins Solution #2: MIPs

We use two capacity terminologies: the common “load center” (because it is expected), and a more precise and easy measurement of capacity called MIPs.

In the real world, no one is lifting a boat that weighs 35,000 pounds with a 96” load center (they don’t exist!). A 35,000-pound boat might have a load center closer to 240” (20’). A better measurement of the forces a boat will place on a lift is “millions of inch-pounds” (MIPs). An “inch-pound” describes how much force is exerted by a boat on a forklift per square inch, and takes into account weight and torque when turning or braking. How do you figure MIPs?

Weight of boat (lbs) x load center (inches) = MIPs

MIPS#2A 35,000 pound boat with a 20’ load center is 8.4 MIPs. Since Wiggins’ Marina Bull have MIPs in their model numbers, you know you will need a model W8.4 M2 or higher. (It would be listed as 52,000 lbs at 96” load center for continuity.)

If you have a Marina Bull W8.4 M2, and a boat arrives at your marina that weighs 36,000 lbs with a load center at 216 inches, can you lift it? Multiply 36,000 by 216 to get 7.8 MIPs—then get out there and move that boat with complete confidence!

Lifting Boats in the Real World

Wiggins model numbers are based on boats, not an out-of-date 96” load center. Do you want to know if a competitor model compares to the Wiggins W 8.4 M2? They might tell you that you need their model 600 which has a capacity of 60,000 lbs at a 96” load center. Will it lift your boat? Maybe, but how do you know? First, there is no 60,000 lb boat over 50’ long with a load center at 8’! Second, did they design the carriage, mast, and forks for that much boat? In order to lift the same boat as a Wiggins M8.2, you might need a lift of larger capacity from our competitors, because many manufacturers use the same carriage, mast, and forks across a family of marina lifts.

Wiggins builds our Marina Bulls to lift the largest boat you need to lift, and provides an easy formula for safe lifting capacity. A measurement that ensures the safety of your lift, your facility, your employees, and your customer’s expensive boats.

We will delve into the details of load capacities, strength of components, and MIPs in future posts. Join our mailing list to keep up!

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