Represented by crane companies in Georgia, Illinois and Oregon, American Cranes & Transport’s 2017 Crane Rental Roundtable offers a strong snapshot of business activity across the United States.
Celebrating 70 years of continuous business, Portland, OR-based Ness Campbell Crane + Rigging is known throughout the Pacific Northwest for its crane, rigging and specialized transportation expertise. Most of Ness Campbell’s employees have made lifelong careers with the company due to many reasons, according to John Anderson, president. All of the company’s crane operators are NCCCO certified.
Serving Southeast Georgia and South Carolina and based in Savannah, GA, Tim’s Crane & Rigging was started by Tim Marshlick in 1997. A crane industry veteran, Marshlick started working in the crane business when he was 15 years old, rising through the ranks as a crane oiler, operator, rigger, dispatcher and CEO. Today the company has 24 cranes ranging in size from 8 to 300 tons. Tim’s Crane & Rigging’s core belief is in fostering strong, personal connections with its customers and employees, according to Kris Skinner, vice president and chief financial officer.
Celebrating 47 years of business, Imperial Crane Services is a stalwart in the Chicago region. Founded by John Bohne in 1969, the company has provided lifting services for premiere projects throughout the Midwest, including high-rise buildings, petroleum plants and heavy civil projects to name a few, according to the company. Since his father’s passing in 2003, B. J. Bohne has led the company as president and CEO, growing the company from 80 employees to more than 500, and from 30 cranes to more than 250 today.
Imperial is Chicago’s largest crane company, and the company has a young fleet and a strong reputation for being one of the safest crane companies in the region, according Lance Bohne, executive vice president.
We posed the same questions to our roundtable panel, including Anderson, Skinner and Bohne. Following are their answers.
How do you characterize demand for crane services in the region you serve?
Anderson: The work in the Pacific Northwest has been very busy for the last two years, so our utilization has been high, which in turn means the demand for cranes has been extremely high.
Skinner: So many factors determine the demand for cranes. Strength of the economy, time of year and weather are just a few that drive demand. We are seeing an increase in solar panel field construction as the use of energy increases, as well as infrastructure improvements.
Bohne: As long as the construction market is healthy, demand is going to follow. Demand is good.
What is the hottest class of cranes in your market?
Anderson: We see higher demand in the 60-ton boom trucks and large all terrain cranes with 300 tons capacity and over.
Skinner: The highest demand is for mid-sized all terrain cranes, mainly because they are so versatile. Customers love them and they request these cranes on their jobs.
Bohne: For Imperial it’s large rough terrain cranes and crawlers.
What is the weakest class of cranes?
Anderson: Crawler cranes.
Skinner: Truck cranes.
Bohne: Small to mid-sized rough terrain cranes that are 60-ton capacity and lower.
What are the most prevalent types of projects your cranes are working on?
Anderson: Refinery shutdowns, steel erection, wind maintenance, HVAC work, heavy civil projects and tree jobs. We cover all types of work.
Skinner: Anything and everything. Everyday jobs that keep us busy include HVAC jobs, cell towers and plant maintenance. We are thankful for these jobs. But occasionally we get that call for a fun job like supplying a crane on a movie set. It makes day-to-day operations interesting.
Bohne: Roads, bridges, plants, heavy industrial, refineries, commercial, infrastructures, the wind and power industry, mechanical, cellular and petro-chemical projects.
How do you describe crane rental rates?
Anderson: Very competitive. Many companies are buying work to gain market share.
Skinner: Crane rental rates are driven by competing crane companies in your service area. Of course, you are going to have that one company that comes in and bids so low to get a job, but usually customers realize they are getting what they pay for. Great price doesn’t always equal great service, and also the knowledge of how to safely perform a job.
Bohne: Soft. It is a competitive market and some crane companies are almost giving away work. We have seen a surplus of cranes and not enough work.
What are the biggest challenges in the market you serve?
Anderson: Qualified labor and risk management is a challenge. Regulations continuing to constrict our business such as what we see going on in New York and ARB regulations are a concern.
Another issue is the publicity that crane accidents draw and how it effects the way we work.
Skinner: Competition can be challenging in both good and bad aspects. Competition drives crane rental rates down as well as gives operators a wider choice of employment. On the other hand, friendly competition is there to help out in time of need.
We would like to see the younger generation take an interest in operating cranes. We are seeing a decline in the amount of people learning this field and certified operators will be in high demand in the future.
Bohne: Competitive rates among crane rental providers are a big challenge. There also is more equipment amongst competitors than there ever has been. This holds true especially in the Chicago market.
Do you expect to purchase any cranes in the coming months?
Anderson: Yes. We have a new Liebherr LTM 1400 7.1-500 ton crane coming in June.
Skinner: That is usually determined mid-year. We sit down and look at the amount of construction that is in pre-planning phases in our area and look at the economy as a whole to determine our upcoming needs.
What distinguishes your company in the crane rental marketplace?
Anderson: 70 years in business. Our commitment to safety, customer service and our employees. We have the largest fleet of cranes in the Pacific Northwest along with the best operators covering work in both Washington and Oregon. [We provide] a full service package to our customers: lift, rig, haul and engineering.
Skinner: We are a small, family owned and operated crane rental company that believes in strong, personal connections with our customers and employees. When a company becomes too large, we feel that personal service and trust is lost somewhere. We want our customers and employees to know that if something is needed, we are there to care of their needs.
Bohne: Imperial Crane has been recognized as one of the safest crane rental companies in the industry. Imperial has $50 million in insurance which is ten times the industry standard. Imperial has over 250 pieces of equipment from 15 tons to 600 ton. Our average fleet is six to seven years old or younger.
Imperial Crane also has over 45 years of crane rental and sales experience. Imperial is also a dealer for Elliott, Pettibone, Tadano and our recent expansion of Merlo telehandlers.