Whether you're spec'ing a mechanic's truck or a dedicated crane body, the proper crane and options make the difference between productivity and frustration. You need to carefully consider lifting capacity requirements, duty cycle and budget.
According to Tim Worman, product manager for commercial vehicles, Iowa Mold Tooling (IMT), "Finding the right crane really boils down to answering two key questions: How much lift capacity do you need the crane to have, and how often are you going to use the crane?"
There are really three types of cranes to choose between: electric, hydraulic telescopic and articulating. Then you need to consider the appropriate load moment rating. Be cautious that you really understand the true capabilities of what you are purchasing. While two cranes may be listed as 6,000-lb. cranes, the capacities may actually differ within the working load zones of the crane. Calculating the load moment capacity required, then comparing it to the load moment rating of the prospective crane, can eliminate problems down the road.
In addition to a service body crane, also consider whether a dedicated crane body might be a good fit for your operation.
Archer Western has discovered the versatility of crane bodies while working in a crowded urban environment on the Valley Metro light rail project in Phoenix, AZ. It is utilizing two boom trucks equipped with National cranes. "We use them for running materials around - manhole sections, pieces of pipe," says Bob Fouty, senior project manager, Archer Western Contractors. "They have been real workhorses. We have those working both shifts."
Entry level option
Electric cranes offer a low cost of entry. "If you don't have a lot of money to spend, if your lifting needs are fairly light and if your duty cycle is intermittent, then an electric telescopic crane may be the best choice," says Worman. "Customers who know they only need to lift something once a week, or maybe a little more often, can save money by selecting an electric crane."
Walt Van Laren, sales/general manager, Service Trucks International, agrees, adding, "If the duty cycle is light, the lifting requirements are less than 6,500 lbs. and no hydraulics are available on the equipment the crane is mounted on, the electric crane would be the best choice for the application."
"They are really a good solution if you don't need any other hydraulic power," notes Jason Ollerich, Feterl Mfg. Corp. The complete unit will cost less because you don't need a pump, a hydraulic reservoir and a PTO.
In addition, an electric crane doesn't require the engine to be running for power. "An electric crane is the better choice when working in conditions that are not conducive to having your truck running during operation," says Kyle Whiteis, Auto Crane. "Hydraulic cranes obviously require a PTO/pump configuration to produce the necessary flow - which requires the engine to be running (often at higher than idle rpms) during operation."
Electric cranes have their limitations, however. For example, the power of the electric motors typically limits the size of an electric crane to 6,000- to 6,500-lb. gross lifting capacity, Van Laren points out.
There are also limits on operation. "I always caution customers against trying to save money by buying an electric crane if they are going to end up using it every day," says Worman. "They will be worse off because the life cycle of the crane will be reduced. Those cranes are not meant to stand up to that kind of use."
"Electric cranes are best suited for light duty cycle operations," Whiteis agrees. "Constant use throughout an operation will dramatically reduce battery life and add pressure to the electrical system. In addition, electric cranes are slower in operation than hydraulic cranes. More importantly, electric cranes are either on or off. There is very little, if no, opportunity for proportional control of the crane."