The truck crane - it remains one of the most versatile heavy lifters on the jobsite. Where an operator could be setting steel building beams in the morning, he could later be off-loading equipment in the evening.
"This is the nature of the truck crane business," says Jay Barth, global product marketing manager for Terex Cranes. "Diverse capability in a wide variety of applications."
However, despite the truck crane's many abilities on and off the jobsite, the market for the units has been down since the economic crash.
"The market for truck cranes, especially those larger than 90 tons, is improving in North America although it still lags the sales levels set in 2007 and 2008," Barth says.
Rick Curnutte, manager of telescopic boom cranes at Link-Belt Construction Equipment, agrees.
"The need for the quick-moving, quick-to-set-up taxi crane hasn't gone away," Curnutte says. "We're seeing more truck cranes working in the gas shale and oil shale industries. Commercial building and housing are still slow, but there is an increase in utilities and industry-based projects doing upgrades or refits. The market is starting to turn around."
Truck crane manufacturers overall have seen utilization improved, but the numbers are still low.
"This increased activity is seen as a cautiously positive sign for the return of this segment of the market," Barth says. "The work of truck cranes has not changed in recent years, but the demand for machines with greater lifting capacities has increased. Terex recently launched the Roadmaster 9000 truck crane to provide our customers with a high performance solution to their higher capacity lifting requirements."
Terex, which showed the Roadmaster 9000 at ConExpo in March, sold eight of the new units to Cropac Equipment in Canada recently. The first unit was delivered to Cropac in May.
According to Barth, the Roadmaster 9000 is the result of the company's "highly customer-focused approach to product development. This new model is engineered to meet the diverse requirements of a wide customer base. Its design represents a collaboration between Cropac and Terex to ensure acceptance in Canadian and Northern US markets."
Also at ConExpo, Link-Belt Construction Equipment unveiled its newest truck crane model, the HTC-86100. The 100-ton 86100 has a completely new carrier frame design that is both stronger and lighter than HTC-8690 it replaces. The HTC-86100 has a 35- to 140-foot, five-section, formed boom produced in Link-Belt's own facility.
The crane also features the new Link-Belt Pulse total crane operating system. Part of Link-Belt Pulse is a new boom telescopic extend mode controller (EMC) for the pinning and latching operations. Like the RCL portion of Link-Belt Pulse, the EMC is a Link-Belt in-house creation. It interacts with the 86100's new pinning and latching system that will become the standard for Link-Belt cranes with this type of boom extend system-the same system found in Link-Belt's large rough terrain and truck cranes as well as the new ATC-3275.
"Moving forward, our new Link-Belt Pulse total crane operating system provides us with a solid platform for a wide range of future applications and our new boom forming capability gives us opportunities and control," Curnutte says. "For us, you'll see even more capability and value-added elements that make our cranes simpler to operate and service."
"Customers always want more capacity that's easier to move and we're meeting those demands," Curnutte says. "Despite extensive new technology in the modern truck crane, customers still want the same thing they've always wanted: more capacity, longer reach and better transportability in a simple and reliable package. These were the key issues behind our new HTC-86100."
Doyle Bryant, director of product marketing for Manitowoc Cranes, says capacities continue to grow on truck cranes.
"Truck cranes, like most other types of cranes, have grown in average capacity over the last decade," Bryant says. "Cranes that are used for jobs requiring lifts below 50-tons of capacity, are now typically boom trucks."
Like other manufacturers, Manitowoc listens to its customers' needs and wants, but is also engineering and designing cranes around new government regulations.
"Engine emissions regulations are affecting the design and development of new truck cranes," Bryant says. "Manitowoc will offer on-highway EPA compliant engines on its Grove truck cranes later this year."
At Terex, Barth says the company's biggest challenge is to provide lifting solutions that offer the highest levels of reliability and safety and "yet are easily configured to meet the diverse set of lifting requirements encountered by our truck crane customers," he says. "This evolution never stops and pushes us continually to explore and test new ideas."
Overall, Link-Belt's Curnutte is positive the truck crane market will pick up, especially with the company's newest addition.
"We expect a strong end to 2011 with our newest model...," he says. "Utilization is up slightly over 2010 and we, as well as our customers, are optimistic for the rest of 2011."