A Ferris wheel is one of those iconic funfair rides that everyone remembers. They not only make regular appearances at funfairs up and down the country, but you can also hire them for private events. Here are 6 tips for hiring a Ferris wheel to make sure you get the best for your money.
1 What Size Wheel
There are two basic wheels you will see in the UK. What we tend to term a traditional wheel, which in actual fact is more than likely to be American in origin, more specifically from the Eli Bridge company of Jacksonville Illinois.
This is the type of wheel that was in the final scene of Grease, the movie. They are also what you most probably rode as a child, and they are what is usually hired for private events.
The other big wheel type, is big, really big. They have been christened Continental Wheels in the UK, but are generally referred to as giant wheels on the continent. They come in a multitude of sizes, the travelling models tending to be 50-60 metres in height, with some fixed models of 100m up over. These can be hired privately, however keep in mind that a typical 50m wheel would come on 5-6 trailers, with each one being towed by a vehicle averaging perhaps 6-7 MPG. They would take a number of days to set up and similar to take back down, using a crew of perhaps 6-8 staff members. So unless you are Elon Musk or the likes, you aren’t going to hire one for a 5 year olds birthday party in your back garden.
2 Where Will The Wheel Be Built
We will proceed under the assumption that you aren’t Elon Musk and wish to hire the smaller Eli Bridge type wheel. For the other type, much of what we advise is equally valid, but you would need a specialist survey to ensure the ground can take the weight and stress of a true giant wheel.
Ideally a perfectly flat tarmac or concrete surface such as a car park is what we like for a wheel. Realistically, this isn’t always possible. Grass is fine, as long as it isn’t too soft. This is more for the vehicles carrying the ride rather than an issue with the ride. A wheel is a stable structure, well balanced and with large outriggers to prevent it tilting. Getting it into position on extremely soft ground is where the problems arrive. We carry wooden boards to drive on across soft ground, and if you need us 50 or 60ft across a field its not an issue. If you want us half a mile across a swamp it isn’t going to happen.
The other issue people seem to be oblivious to, is actually having an entrance large enough to drive the ride through. We have turned up on site visits many a time, to find out that although there is a 300 acre field available, the only access is through a gate 4ft wide, or around a sharp bend that you would be lucky to manage with a classic mini without a couple of shunts. Imagine the large vehicles you see on the motorway, then widen it a foot and add perhaps 10ft on the end. That will give you an idea of how long a typical ride is.
If in doubt ask about a site visit. There may be a small charge, but a decent operator will waive this if you end up booking.
3 Ensure It Carries The Correct Documentation
Thankfully, with the funfair industry being so highly regulated, the cowboys have pretty much been forced out. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still undertake due diligence when hiring attractions. Circumstances can conspire to create a situation where someone may cut corners, be it down to greed, or desperation. The best way to ensure your safety, is to make sure your chosen operator can actually supply a full set of safety documentation. The following list are all legally required documents, if they can’t provide any of them, run away, quickly:
- Public Liability Insurance (Self Explanatory)
- Risk Assessments (To how the ride has been assessed to ascertain what risks exist)
- Fire Assessments (Like the Risk assessment, but looking for fire based issues)
- Method Statements (A document showing what has been put in place to mitigate the risks identified)
- ADIPS Certificate (Much like an MOT, showing the ride has been tested by an independent engineer for safety)
- Daily Inspection Record (To show that each day the ride is operated it has been checked by the operator)
One the mentioned documents, the ADIPS cert bears a little more explaining. Each ride has to undergo an annual inspection to ensure it is safe to operate. This includes electrical and mechanical safety, and may well include non destructive testing such as x-rays or dye penetration inspections to check for metal fatigue and cracking. A certificate is issued once the ride is passed as safe. This has all the relevant information about the ride. It also has two important things to look out for. One is the ADIPS inspection number, If you visit their website, you can actually input this number to ensure the document is correct and up to date.
The other is the photograph in the top right hand of the document. This should match the ride you have hired. If it doesn’t it could mean that the ride you have hired isn’t covered by that document. A big no no.
Above is an example of what the DOC looks like, you can see the image in the top right hand corner, directly below this image will be the DOC number.
4 Ask For Photos Of What You Are Hiring
There are some absolutely immaculate wheels on the hire market. There are sadly a few poor examples, and the majority are comfortably in the middle, quite presentable rather than exceptional.
You are certainly entitled to ask for a photo of what the operator is proposing to hire to you. Beware of tiny thumbnails that show no details, and ask for how old the photos are. Something immaculate 20 years ago could look very different now.
Any professional operator wants his client to be happy. A successful job isn’t just one where they earn money, its one where the client is happy and will use them again.
Take a look at the wheel above, this can quite accurately be described to you as one hot wheel without telling any lies. Thing is, it’s hot, not because it’s a fabulous wheel, but because it was in the vicinity of Chernobyl when the nuclear reactor exploded. So don’t trust to descriptions alone, unless it is someone you have worked with before and trust.
5 Ensure The Quote You Have Includes Everything
Although we haven’t really heard of it happening with wheels. A favourite tactic of one competitor when offering dodgems for hire, was to quote a price roughly halve of everyone else’s. When your ride turned up, it didn’t have lights or music. There was no top cover so it wouldn’t work it it rained, and you only got 4 cars. They would inform you that the ride supplied was exactly what you had paid for. If you wanted all the additional extras and the more usual 14 cars, then they were extra. Your choice at that point was to pay what could end up being more than you had been quoted from other operators for the same service, or put up with half a ride.
Most companies quote within a narrow price band. If something is exceptionally cheap it is for a reason, and not usually a good one.
Another cowboy we came across had an ingenious scheme. He would quote a price about 40% less than anyone else. To secure it you had to pay an immediate £500 NON REFUNDABLE deposit. The day before your event, you would receive a phone call informing you that sadly, the ride you had booked had been destroyed by fire/stolen/kidnapped by space aliens. But not to worry, they had a couple of children’s roundabouts they could bring you. When you complained the event wasn’t for kids and you were cancelling, they were happy to let you do that. Of course the deposit was non refundable.
Is it legal? Hmm, probably not, getting you money back by going to court probably outweighs the £500. If you give the guy too much hassle he had the option of refunding your money to stop the case. He kept far more than he lost though.
6 If You Have Any Unusual Requirements, Agree Them Beforehand
Do you want only Max Bygraves records playing on the ride. Or the lights switched off for some reason. Perhaps you want your pet donkey to be allowed to ride. Talk the to supplier and make sure this is possible, before the day of the event. It isn’t fair complaining that they had none of Mr Bygraves songs to play, if they were totally unaware that you were a fan.
Most reasonable requests we are happy to comply with. We enjoy a bit of fun, and want you to be happy. (Not sure about letting the donkey ride though). But be aware of the fact that we will not, compromise safety to please you. No amount of offering to sign waivers will make any difference, (and for the record, judges tend not to view the practice very kindly, their take is that the fact we had a waiver signed meant we knew it was unsafe to do), we want the job, and we want you to be happy with it, but not at the risk of hurting or killing someone.
If you want any more info on the ins and outs of hiring a Ferris wheel, drop us an email, or pick the phone up, we are quite happy to talk to you about it without obligation.