Across the board, industry sources agree that the market for truck cranes is alive, well and growing by the day. Even though it’s an evolving market with new and improved cranes being introduced left and right, the truck crane is a machine that, after a period of decline, is making another comeback.
Truck cranes are a popular choice for customers looking for machines that are lightweight, easy to road and quick to set up on the jobsite, according to J.J. Grace, truck crane product manager, Manitowoc Cranes.
“We’ve seen substantial growth in this product family as the crane market has improved over the last year,” said Grace. “Based on the feedback from our customers, we feel the future is promising. We recently launched our newest truck crane, the Grove TMS9000-2. This crane has been a huge success. It’s a lightweight crane with a long boom that offers excellent capacities.”
From a monetary standpoint, customers seem to be in more of a “buying mood.”
“The mood and the feel of customers in the last part of last year was that they were getting ready to make big purchases,” said Rick Curnutte, product manager, telescopic cranes, Link-Belt. “Now they’re doing it, and I feel really good about it. There’s always external forces with the volatility of our economy, but right now it looks very promising for a great year.”
Link-Belt’s 100-ton capacity HTC 86100 features a boom length of 38 to 140 feet. The HTC 86100 has a maximum tip height of 237 feet and a maximum line pull of 16,880 pounds.
Curnutte reflected that prior to ConExpo in 2017, there was a lot of talk about new all-terrain cranes with all their bells and whistles coming into the market. ATs have desirable attributes because they are highly maneuverable and can handle rough terrain and steep grades. But interest in truck cranes is still strong. Curnutte said truck cranes really shine when you talk about long hauls and transportability.
“They run at highway speeds, and they’re not as complicated in their power trains. They’re simple to operate, and the skill set for your crews, as far as driving, is not much different than jumping in a pick-up truck. They have automated transmissions and cameras to give you excellent visibility all the way around. They have back-up cameras too. The big focus is that they can be a one-person show.”
Many times a truck crane can be dispatched to a job with just the operator. With the ability to mobilize quickly, these machines can complete multiple jobs in one day using only one person, saving time and money.
“As we see in many other products and sectors across the industry, lifts have become heavier and higher,” said Bryce Meier, regional business manager, Terex Cranes. “This has forced the industry two-fold – longer reach and higher capacity machines.”
Echoing this sentiment, Michael Toudjarov, sales and marketing coordinator, Manitex, added that the truck-mounted crane market has grown steadily over the past year.
Grove’s 115-ton capacity TMS9000-2 has a 36 to 169-foot six-section boom.
“In the last year, the general construction and utility markets have grown and recently oil and gas markets are moving again,” Toudjarov said. “As these industries grow, so does the need for higher reach and higher capacity truck-mounted cranes. Over the past three years the market had been in a downcycle, and in 2018 things are looking up with increased orders.”
Manitex predicts that this sector of the crane market will be steady and consistent.
Versatility is key
In the lighter crane market, truck-mounted cranes have always been a go-to for the taxi crane and rental business, according to George “Beau” Pocock, regional business manager and industrial crane sales manager, Manitex.
“We feel this is due to the overall versatility and mobility of our cranes,” said Pocock. “These attributes allow users to increase job productivity and greatly reduce transportation and set-up times.”
Pocock added that truck-mounted cranes have been around since the end of World War II. With innovations in technology and the increased interest in serving the customer, the truck mounted crane class will only gain more traction.
“Having a product offering that provides excellent taxi capabilities is pivotal for any crane manufacturer,” said Manitowoc’s Grace.
“To that end, we’re always looking for ways to help our customers eliminate or reduce fall off loads, i.e., additional trucks that haul counterweight and other equipment. Truck cranes often go from one job to the next while rigged with a swing-away, hook block or overhaul weight, rigging, cribbing and enough counterweight to meet the job requirement.”
Truck cranes are valued machines in a fleet, regardless of the size of the company owning them.
“Truck cranes are an excellent fit for smaller operations where an affordable machine with a low cost of ownership is important to success, as well as the large operated rental fleets that optimize their ability to quickly move between jobs with minimal downtime,” said Terex’s Meier. “It is the quick picks and the ability to move from location to location that keeps customers continuing to invest in the reliable truck crane for their fleet.”
Manitowoc continues to pay more attention to the truck crane class, introducing new models with improved features and benefits. This is paying off with demand increasing.
“We’ve seen growth in all capacity classes over the last year, but historically, truck cranes with capacities of 90 tons and above seem to experience the highest demand,” said Grace. “We’ve had great success over the years with the Grove TMS900E and TMS9000E truck cranes.”
Lighting the way
Link-Belt’s Curnutte described a setting that is all too familiar – big cranes blocking traffic.
“Impeding traffic when you’re doing roadwork is something no one wants to live with,” Curnutte said. “Two lanes are closed, and you see a great big crane blocking two lanes of traffic. You want to get home, right? We’re seeing a lot of jobs becoming nighttime projects.”
In keeping with the theme of versatility and simplicity, Link-Belt adapted its truck cranes to also include a comprehensive lighting package to accommodate the growing need for nighttime work.
“We’ve geared them up to almost look like a Christmas tree – not only light to work but surrounding light around the crane,” Curnutte said. “Whenever you come up on a jobsite at night, you’ll see all kinds of light towers. But the crane comes equipped with those now. It all goes back to trying to make the machine so that one person can go out and do it all.”
In the truck-mounted class, higher capacity is now front and center.
“Our lighter cranes were in higher demand in the past, but as the world grows so does the need for higher capacity machines with longer reach,” said Pocock with Manitex. “We are seeing a lot more activity for our TC series 30 to 70-ton truck-mounted cranes, and I believe we have found what the customer has been looking for.”
Latest and greatest
When it comes to keeping the market fresh, manufacturers must look for ways to improve on this industry staple.
Link-Belt manufactures the popular HTC 86100 truck crane with a capacity of 100 tons and a boom length of 38 to 140 feet. The HTC 86100 also features a maximum tip height of 237 feet and a maximum line pull of 16,880 pounds. It can be configured to meet some of the toughest transportation laws.
Terex’s 40-ton capacity T-340-1 features a maximum boom length of 94 feet and a 99-foot maximum tip height.
Grove’s 115-ton capacity TMS9000-2 has 36 to 169 feet of six-section greaseless MEGAFORM boom and features a TWIN-LOCK boom pinning system. The TMS9000-2 features 34.5 to 57.6 feet bi-fold swing away extension options and a 26-foot insert.
Early in the year, R&D Crane Rental (R&D) was the first company in Canada to take delivery of Grove’s TMS9000-2 model.
“We’re a relatively new company, and we wanted to add a crane to our fleet that would boost our reputation in Canada,” said Alex Jenkins, operations manager, R&D. “We feel that the TMS9000-2 has done that. The main selling point for us was the longer main boom. Other comparable cranes only have 142 feet of main boom, while the TMS9000-2 gives you 169 feet. That extra reach has saved us hours on the job since we don’t have to take a swing away jib on and off.”