Grove built the world's first all-terrain crane in Germany in 1976. The two-axle 18-ton capacity Grove AT180 was quickly embraced throughout Europe, but was slow to catch on in the United States.
In 1981, Liebherr brought its LT 1200, a 240 US ton AT to ConExpo, selling it at the show, much to the surprise of many people there. At that same show, Grove displayed its new TM2500/3000, an eight-axle, all-wheel steer, 300-ton crane with a pinned boom.
But after the initial buzz at ConExpo, the market for ATs fluzzled, with the major AT manufacturers continuing to develop the product in Europe, but not finding much of a market in the US.
“In the mid 1980s, we sold a few ATs in the US,” says Ingo Schiller, whose father Heinz Schiller sold that first Liebherr AT at ConExpo. “Things were kind of quiet. The truck-style telescoping cranes out of Europe were too heavy to move on US roadways.”
But fast forward to 1992, and according to Schiller, “Life got interesting.”
After years of conversation, Ray Anthony of Ray Anthony Cranes ordered two Liebherr LTM 1120s, a 120 metric tonne machine on five axles with 137 feet of main boom, remembers Schiller. “Mr. Anthony liked the crane but told us the boom needed to be a bit longer so we redesigned it to a 148 foot boom and Mr. Anthony took another four units,” says Schiller. “And then he took another six.”
Schiller says by the mid 1990s, people began paying attention to the design and functionality of the AT. All Erection out of Cleveland started ordering ATs as did B&G in New Orleans and Turner Brothers he says.
“ATs started appearing on jobsites and there was a market opening,” he says. “At the time, there were Liebherr ATs, Demag ATs, Krupp ATs and Grove ATs in the US.”
In 1995, Grove purchased Krupp, which produced an entire line of ATs. By the late 1990s, the AT was a “phenom” in the US. Tadano had purchased Faun and began producing a full line of ATs. Terex purchased Demag and merged their AT product lines. Link-Belt got into the action, creating an alliance with Tadano to market a Link-Belt branded AT.
Two things happened to make the AT an accepted product in the US, according to Schiller. First of all, the predominant European manufacturers started designing ATs to meet the speci. c needs of their American customers. “And then some big players purchased them and when the big players purchased them the smaller players says 'well if they are buying them they can't be bad,'” Schiller says.