Tower crane market is steady, but temperamental
By Hannah Sundermeyer04 November 2019
As the market for tower cranes levels off, product variety across the industry is greatly increasing.
”Strong, steady and maybe a bit temperamental.” That’s how Sam Moyer, P.E., general manager, ALL Tower Cranes, sums up the North American tower crane market.
Tower cranes decorate urban skylines across the country as market demand remains steady. PHOTO: Morrow Equipment
“Thriving in the construction business is all about being nimble,” Moyer said. “While you might find some markets are saturated, there are always going to be others where demand is high. They key is to tend to your customer relationships, so you’re prepared for the winds of change. Last year, there was growth everywhere. It’s unreasonable to expect that to continue indefinitely. But there are still a lot of opportunities out there.”
Favelle Favco M760D tower cranes operated at the 66 Hudson Yards project in Manhattan.
Nick Cantine, director of heavy lift projects at RMS Cranes, has a finger on the pulse of the tower crane market, and he thinks it is strong and growing.
“In the metro areas, these projects allow limited space in work areas which require the utilization of tower cranes,” said Cantine. “We are able to provide our clients with enough lifting capacity and tip heights without taking up too much ground space on the jobsite.”
Sources say 2020 will also be a crucial indicator of the solidity of the market because it’s a presidential election year. How business friendly will the man in the Oval Office be? “We are forecasting 2020 will remain strong until the summer,” said Stephen Jehle, president, P&J Arcomet. “With the U.S. presidential election coming, there is typically a pullback in demand. This lasts for about four months or so. Once the outcome is decided in the fall, the market returns to normal.”
But Morrow Equipment Company forecasts that 2020 is going to be quite similar to what customers saw this year, with no dramatic increase or decrease.
“We see no real declines,” said Christian Chalupny, president, Morrow Equipment Company. “This year has been a little bit weaker than last year, but it was an excellent year. We would forecast next year to be pretty much the same as this year, but no declines like 2008, or 2009, nothing like that on the horizon. We certainly don’t want to see that again.”
With tower crane accidents making headlines over the past year, tower crane safety is a hot button topic. As the market demand evolves, it’s important that tower crane safety stays at the forefront.
“Recently, we’ve started having our technicians take turns observing each other,” said Moyer. “It encourages sharing of best practices, asking questions and starts a dialog about safety protocols. Our people are also encouraged to freely share their own ideas and observations about what they encounter on the job. If there’s a better way to do something, we want to know about it. Safety is about total awareness and total engagement on the job.”
Recent tower crane accidents have put these machines in the spotlight.
“The industry is mostly self-reporting and the ‘outside’ experts are typically less knowledgeable than the tower crane houses themselves,” said Jehle. “We find that some tower crane rental companies do not function with the same safety standards and training of technical people as others. This can lead to accidents, which is bad for all of us.”
Forces of nature and human error are where fingers are pointed.
“Wind speeds are one of the biggest issues we see today,” Cantine said. “Tower cranes work long term projects varying anywhere from six months to three years in duration. Unpredictable weather will often occur during these times. As long as we pay attention to these issues and the safety measures we put in place are consistently adhered to, tower cranes are safe.”
Chalupny highlighted concerns in relation to erection, dismantling and climbing tower cranes. Training is needed to ensure these processes are completed safely and correctly.
“This is when an accident is potentially more likely to happen,” he said. “It usually involves human error when it comes to following certain procedures. So, it involves a lot of training on the customer side.”
The good news for the market is the number of new players and the variety of cranes now being produced. The ACT team surveyed many of the leading North American crane manufacturers for the low-down on their most recent products.
Favelle Favco Cranes is introducing its new model M900F-ST tower crane to the U.S. market for 2019-2020. This crane will supersede the popular M760D model which has been around for 20 years and was used in many prestigious projects such as the World Trade Center Hudson Yards and One Vanderbilt in New York City.
Similar to the M760D, the M900F-ST has 2 winches with a 141,000-pound capacity on the main line, based on two falls. The auxiliary has a 26,400-pound capacity on a single line. This crane will have a shorter tail swing of 25 feet compared to the conventional M760D which has a tail swing of 30 feet.
While the winch has the same line pull of 70,400 pounds as the M760D, the M900F-ST has a significantly better load chart compared to the M760D, Favco said. With a 225-foot boom length, the M900F-ST has a tip load of 21,700 pounds compared to 12,800 pounds for the M760D. The maximum hook speed is 623 foot per minute. The heavy lift and high-speed capabilities of the M900F-ST makes it ideal for use in high rise steel construction, the company said.
This year at Bauma, Comansa displayed the new 21LC1050-50T, the largest flat top crane at the show. The 1050 and its larger brother, the 21LC1400-66T, are designed for large construction projects, commercial and residential projects following precast construction methods, infrastructure, industrial and shipyard projects. Since its introduction over 20 machines have been sold, including two in the U.S. market. The 21LC1050 uses the D36 size tower, the same as the 21LC75, allowing for fast, safe erection and dismantle.
Comansa’s 21LC1050 clocks in at a standard maximum free-standing height of 240 feet.
With this tower the standard maximum free-standing height is 240 feet. The crane is standard with a 262-foot jib and optional lengths of 278 and 295 feet. Maximum capacity is 110,230 pounds in 6-part configuration. The newly developed Quick Set is another feature with this crane allowing electronically set limits with a known load reducing set up time from 3 hours to less than 45 minutes.
Liebherr’s newly introduced 125 K and EC-B series cranes offer substantial hook height, easier transport and features that enhance operator comfort and safety, the company said.
Liebherr has launched the first eight cranes of its fully redesigned EC-B series of flat tops.
The 125 K has been specially developed for civil engineering work, such as road bridges and commercial building construction. It is the largest fast erecting crane in its class. The 125 K and 340 EC-B flat top will be displayed at ConExpo in March.
Five tower sections can be inserted to increase the 125 K’s hook height from just under 97 feet to 136 feet. If more reach is needed, the crane’s 30-degree luffed jib position can reach a hook height of nearly 215 feet.
The Terex CTLH 192-12 hydraulic luffer is the first of its type from this manufacturer.
The two largest cranes in the series, the 340 EC-B 12 and 370 EC-B 12 Fiber, each have a reach of nearly 256 feet. The 340 EC-B is also available as a 12-ton and a 16-ton crane.
Terex Cranes rolled out three new tower cranes during its October preview event in Italy. The new lineup includes the company’s first hydraulic luffer, to broaden its offering, a flat top and a self-erector. The largest of the three is the 13.2-ton capacity CTLH 192-12 hydraulic luffer, the first of its type from this manufacturer. Maximum jib length is 180 feet, at the end of which capacity is 2.6 tons. It’s out of service radius when parked is 26 feet and it can be mounted on the HD23, TS23, TS21 or H20 tower masts. The hoist winch is 67 kW and the hydraulic luffing mechanism is 30 kW. The new CTT 172-8 flat top is an 8.8 ton (on four falls of rope) with a maximum jib of 213 feet. The 4.4-ton version on two falls of rope lifts its maximum out to a radius of more than 82 feet. Maximum freestanding height is 213 feet. It replaces the CTT 162 with 441 pounds more tip load capacity and the new electronic control systems.
To meet the demand for larger tower cranes, JASO introduced a luffer and a hammerhead, in the past two years. Using heavier prefinished prefabricated volumetric construction (PPVC) when erecting tall buildings is on the rise. As a response to this trend, JASO designed the J1400 hammerhead model that features a 260-foot jib and lifts a maximum load of 141,095 pounds with a 23,150-pound tip load. In 2018, JASO introduced one of the largest electric luffing cranes in world – the J780PA. The target markets for this crane are high rise construction (steel buildings), PPVC construction and mining. The all electric J780PA is a solid replacement for the commonly used diesel fired hydraulic cranes. The J780PA has a max load of 165,350-pounds, hoist winch options of 110kW or 220kW motors, a boom of 180 feet and a tip load of 24,690 pounds. JASO also designed a fly jib attachment with a 19,840-pound line pull for the U.S. market.
Manitowoc’s latest tower crane model is the Potain MDT 809, the largest flat top crane it has built to date. This model was developed specifically for industrial projects and large-scale infrastructure jobs. This specific design was based on the topless concept, with low space requirements to adapt to multi-crane jobsites.
The MDT 809 boasts a capacity of 44.1 tons and the jib can reach up to 262.5 feet. The crane also has a new 26-foot cross base that offers the performance characteristics of a 33-foot chassis but requires only one container for transport. The MDT 809 typically assembles twice as fast as other 40-ton cranes, the company said. With its full jib, the crane can be assembled at a 164-foot working height in less than three days.
ENG’s brand new derrick EDKH 185 features 27 tons of maximum capacity and 115 feet of jib length.
ENG’s brand new derrick EDKH 185 features 27 tons of maximum capacity, 35 feet of jib length and 4.63 tons of maximum tip load. The EDKH 185 was created to be a stand alone derrick to dismantle internal climbing cranes. It’s 24 tons of maximum capacity make it one of the most powerful derricks on the market, the company said. The EDKH 185 also stands out with its 360 degrees of slewing radius and no counterjib, differentiating it from traditional derricks. The jib can dismantle itself and is also available as a luffer version of the crane.
Zoomlion is enjoying market success with its T8030-25, which is specially designed for the North American market as a result of the joint efforts of Zoomlion and P&J Arcomet. The crane has a 308-foot maximum freestanding hook height, 55,125 pounds maximum capacity and 268 foot 11 inches as the max jib length.
Zoomlion will also unveil a new tower crane at ConExpo 2020. Compared to the T8030-25, the Zoomlion T600-32R features a 279-foot maximum jib length and a capacity of 70,548 pounds. While both models share the same tower sections, the combination of current tower section X23D and upcoming X25 would make its freestanding height reach as high as 290 feet, the company said.
New from Switzerland-headquartered tower crane manufacturer is the Wolff 133 B. It’s a small hydraulic luffing jib crane which succeeds the Wolff 100 B. The hydraulic luffing system allows for an even smaller out-of-service position than is possible with the conventional rope-based luffing system, the company said. It also means faster installation, as no luffing rope reeving is required. This model is available in two versions: one with a capacity of 6.8 tons and a tip load capacity of 2.9 tons, with a maximum jib radius of 148 feet; the other has a capacity of 8.8 tons and a tip load capacity of 2.5 tons.