Staying safe in a working environment requires vigilance and the proper tools. Without these two key components, a worker is susceptible to accidental or negligent injuries. Carelessness can be overridden with appropriate training and proper management; however, it also takes the correct tools to reduce the risk of worker injury. Tom Gabrilson, president of Gabrilson Indoor Climate Solutions, Davenport, Iowa, understands these safety concepts. His invention, The Mack Rack and Kart System, “Protects the most valuable asset that I have: my people,” he said.

Mack Rack and Kart System


“The Mack Rack was born of necessity - the necessity of moving the new 13 SEER and above units,” noted Gabrilson.

The Mack Rack and Kart System is a rack and a cart combined, designed to ease the lifting and transporting of large, heavy, and awkward objects. Gabrilson and his co-worker of 20 years, Larry Edwards, shipping and receiving manager, Gabrilson Indoor Climate Solutions, began working on the invention in February 2006. The metal-constructed frame with collapsible handles originally had immovable welded handles and stabilizing cables, but the cables snapped during load and bounce testing. After a few adjustments, Gabrilson sent the unit to four different contractors for field testing.

“Different people use different business models,” he said. “We use a large truck to deliver equipment, but many contractors use a van, and they couldn’t get the rack into the van because of the handles.”

After this contractor feedback and a few minor redesigns, The Mack Rack was tested again and certified to 500 pounds by Quad City Testing Laboratory. The lab also certified the rack to 625 pounds critical load. The handles became a collapsible entity, resembling the leg on a folding table with a locking keyhole mechanism for ensured safety. After applying for a patent in June, Gabrilson’s invention went into production early fall last year.

Researching all of the major manufacturers, The Mack Rack was designed to be a universal device accommodating most every unit currently made. The Mack system has a lifting point of 21 inches when using just the rack, and 33 inches when using the rack in conjunction with the cart. Each wheel has a 450-pound capacity, in essence eliminating the danger of a shifting unit breaking the cart. “We moved a 1,600-pound dehumidifier with the rack to see if it could take the stress, and it didn’t collapse,” said Gabrilson. “It is a very versatile product and the uses are endless.”

The handles are 25 ¼ inches apart and 19 inches long. It can be used in conjunction with 30-inch wide moving ramps and safely rigged for use with a crane. The Mack Rack can also be converted to a dolly, by adding a piece of ¾-inch plywood. The cart and rack are detachable, allowing the technician to also use the unit like a wheelbarrow. “We tried to make it as versatile as possible,” commented Gabrilson. “We considered what we could possibly encounter and what we needed to compensate for, and then we did.”


Operating a $7.5 million, 50-employee company, Gabrilson finds that keeping his technicians safe is not just good management, it’s a business necessity.

“We are extremely safety-oriented,” commented Gabrilson. “If a good employee is injured, then I have to replace them.”

According to him, using The Mack Rack takes much of the risk out of muscling a heavy, awkward unit. It allows technicians to lift the unit squarely with their legs, helping mitigate many back injuries.

“It is very difficult to dead lift a unit,” noted Gabrilson. “A lot of my guys are getting older and so are multiple others in the business. We’re not as young as we once were, and using this rack, it doesn’t feel like I am lifting 400 pounds.”

Because of the width and length of the handles, both technicians are able to walk forward when carrying a unit. Walking through the mud or unstable terrain is made easier because of the stable load and carrying stance provided by The Mack Rack.

“It is no big deal to put the unit down or pick it up again,” said Gabrilson. “Also, if a technician stumbles, the unit doesn’t have far to go, which helps mitigate damage to both the technician and the unit.”

Gabrilson’s company, which divides its business evenly between multiple residential and commercial applications, has an insurance experience modification rating of 0.71 and is looking to lower that rate by using The Mack Rack. According to him, a safety record improvement makes his company’s insurance rates lower, making the company more competitive in the HVAC market.

“Insurance claims can be a killer,” he said. “Safety is a top concern, and contractors need an alternative to muscling the unit. It bugs me that people don’t understand it is important to protect their people.”


As a second-generation owner of a 60-year-old company, Gabrilson desires to make his business safer and more profitable.

“We were looking for something to help us out,” he said. “If we need this, why wouldn’t the other 70,000 contractors out there need this?”

He created The Mack Rack and Kart system for all size of companies and is currently marketing it at multiple tradeshows. “If the unit fits in the van, The Mack Rack will most likely fit in the van with the handles down,” commented Gabrilson.

“My technicians are always asking for this tool. They constantly tell our truck drivers to make sure they bring The Mack,” said Gabrilson. Citing his marketing slogan, he added, “Save a back, get The Mack.”

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Publication date:03/26/2007