A look at the four, five and six axle all terrain crane market

By Euan Youdale22 July 2009

The Ivonavets 100 tonne lifting capacity KC-8973 all terrain

The Ivonavets 100 tonne lifting capacity KC-8973 all terrain

The number of four and five axle all terrains on the market has steadily increased in recent years to the point where manufacturers now offer several models and at least one is into double figures. Six axle models is also a growth sector.

To the uninitiated, the huge choice of four and five axle machines on the market is bewildering. Manitowoc has 10, Liebherr has eight and Terex Demag offers six. That is not to mention the significant number available from other manufacturers.

According to Neil Hollingshead, global product manager for all terrain cranes and rough terrain cranes at Manitowoc, this part of the all terrain sector is so busy because customers have different road-going requirements. "It also driven by customer business; if they are in the taxi business maybe they don't want separate transport of the counterweight, but if they are doing heavy lifts and longer-term jobs, then it will be different."

For example, the Grove GMK5095 is rated at 100 tonnes capacity but was given the 5095 model number to differentiate it from the GMK5100, which was a market leader. The difference may be small, but it is crucial, says Hollingshead. The former is a very lightweight crane that consists of a four-axle GMK4100 superstructure, mounted on a five-axle carrier, but it gives you more capacity to carry additional equipment," explains Hollingshead.

The GMK5100 was replaced with the GMK5110 in the second half of 2008. "The 5100 was the perfect balance between a taxi crane and it had a very good load chart with maximum counterweight and other accessories. We felt the need for the 5100 would go down over time, but it has not, that's why we cannot lose the 5095 - people like that niche and that's why we have kept it there."

The 5110 is an improvement of the 5100, says Hollingshead, with the added technology of the 130 tonne capacity GMK5130 and provides a balance between the two. The five-axle 5130, introduced in 2004, started out as a development of the 5100, but had more capacity and capability, and has proven successful throughout the world, says Hollingshead.


At the top end of the five-axle Grove range is the 220 tonne capacity GMK5220. At 12 tonnes per axle, it does not carry any counterweight, and is the biggest possible crane of this axle range.

"It is simply down to what you can carry with 12 tonnes per axle. You need balance between cost, compactness and transportability. For instance, the 5095 can carry a high proportion of its counterweight and allows it to do more taxi crane work and several jobs in a day," says Hollingshead.

The range has been made adaptable through the use of modular production techniques, adds Hollingshead. "We have tried to keep it a simple as possible with modularisation - sharing major components, including the boom, superstructure and chassis."

The range also provides a choice for different axle load regulations, which, for example, varies throughout the US and Australia. If there was a simple worldwide 12 tonne per axle restriction, then there may well be less need for such an extensive range, says Hollingshead.

Rüdiger Zollondz, Terex Cranes senior product market manager, makes a similar point. "All AT cranes today must be able to adapt to very diverse road regulations. Those regulations are different in almost every country around the world. Our customers drive new product developments. [They] want products in the future that will be easier to rig and operate, not to mention the best in class safety features."


The Terex AC100/4 was developed in Germany but was adapted to also meet the requirements of American consumers. The AC100/4 reaches a maximum load moment of 308 tonne metres and lifts 100 tonnes. Maximum outreach is 77 m with a 50 m telescopic boom plus a 27 m main boom extension.

A water-cooled DaimlerChrysler engine provides 335 kW (445 hp). With its 7 kW/tonne, it boasts one of the highest power-to-weight ratios of all known four-axle mobile cranes, says the company. The AC100/4 has what the manufacturer describes as the most versatile main boom extension (MBE) in its class. The 19 m MBE can be offset both at the main boom and at the 8 m extension. Hydraulic offsetting is an option. Also unrivalled, says the company, is the ability to offset the 8 m extension to permit either large radii or reaching over awkward protruding edges.

Demand for versatility is met with the need for sound economics, adds Zollondz. "For smaller to mid-sized AT cranes our customers look more and more at the operating costs. From a manufacturer's perspective, there are many influencing factors: cost of fuel and oil consumption, cost of maintenance and repair work."

High value

Tadano Faun's latest all terrain, the ATF 130G-5 offers a high value throughout its lifetime thanks to the G Type design, says the company, which, again, is in line with global requirements and makes the machine attractive in the used market.

It has a six-section 60 m boom. The one cylinder telescopic system, common in this class size, allows full extension in 400 seconds. A snapshot of the load chart shows 104.6 tonne at 3 m radius, 10.6 tonnes at 10 to 18 m radius and 2.2 tonnes at 56 m radius - all with 360° load handling. The mechanical or hydraulic boom extensions are available from 10/18 m to a maximum 32 m.

As with the ATF 160G-5 and ATF 220G-5, the ATF 130G-5 extensions integrate a heavy duty jib, in this case 3.8 m, for a maximum capacity of 40 tonnes.

The taxi version, with under 12 tonne axle loads, includes 6 tonne counterweight, the 10/18 m extension, 10 x 8 x 10 chassis, large 445/95 R25 tyres, a 63 tonne hook block and a 10 tonne swivel hook.

The maximum 360° capacity in this configuration is 101.6 tonnes and 1.1 tonnes at a maximum radius of 38 m with 43 m boom length. With the 18 m jib at the fully extended 60 m boom, capacity is 1.4 tonnes at 38 m.

After finishing the final tests at the German factory in Lauf, the prototype will be shipped to Japan to be launched internationally. Shipments of the first European units start in the second half of 2009.

In 2008 the Tadano group sold 2,700 units worldwide, including all terrains, rough terrains and truck mounted cranes. Some of Tadano's strongest sales are in its home market of Japan, as well as the usual destinations, US, Middle East and West Europe, including Germany, the company's "second home market."

The company is also noticing the growth in sales of machines above 80 tonnes capacity. There are different reasons, it says, including the rise of windmill projects and larger prefabricated sections on construction sites. "Perhaps there is also a tendency for customers to use their bigger sized cranes for smaller jobs, instead of having one for every job specification."

Rising capacities

As the four and five axle machines took over from their smaller predecessors and became the standard workhorse of the industry, the six axle machines are starting to lay their claim to this mantle as capacity requirements increase.

The six-axle Terex AC300/6 is the newest and most powerful large universal crane on the market, says Zollondz. It has a lifting capacity of 300 tonnes and a maximum load moment of 951 tonne-metres. Apart from its suitability for the 200 to 300 tonne load range and, according to Zollondz, its ability to take on 400 tonne jobs, it is also creeping into lower axle territory. "This crane can be used for a wide variety of jobs, in the 140 to 220 tonne class, with a partial counterweight, as an alternative to medium and large five axle mobile cranes."

It offers the longest system length of any six-axle mobile crane, according to Zollondz, with a maximum lifting height of 114 m with rigid extension and 125.7 m with luffing fly jib.

An example of how variations in the four and five axle ranges are now being found in six axle machines comes from two of Liebherr's latest products. The 150 tonne capacity LTM 1150-6.1 is a "light" six-axle crane, according to Wolfgang Beringer. It can transport up to 15 tonnes of counterweight within a 12 tonne axle load limit. "So this is a kind of taxi crane."

On the other hand, the new 350 tonne LTM 1350-6.1 is the "heavy" crane in the six-axle sector, adds Beringer. "It can only drive without working equipment and without counterweight on the roads. But this crane is the heavy lifter."


The most popular markets for western manufactured ATs remain Europe, North America and Asia. "These markets are continually building and improving their infrastructure, they are doing the kind of work that requires the manoeuvrability and versatility of an all terrain. We don't expect to see this trend change significantly right now. All three markets are relatively stable for AT cranes," adds Zollondz.

One other market that will find a need for more ATs in the future is Russia. The country's first attempt at manufacturing cranes with 100 tonnes lifting capacity began during the existence of the USSR. In the 1990s, however, that development stopped and it was not until 2004 that Ivanovskaya Marka, the trading subsidiary of JSC Avtokran, launched the five-axle KC-8973 all terrain.

It is the only all terrain serially produced in Russia and has a special crane chassis from truck producer Bryansk Automobile Plant (BAZ) - a flagship of the Ivanovets brand, a coverall name for the group's crane manufacturing facilities. The KC-8973 is manufactured at the JSC Avtokran plant in Ivanovo. Total weight of the crane in travel position is 60 tonnes, including the swingaway jib, 60 tonne capacity hook block and 4.8 tonnes of counterweight. Maximum working height and radius is 57 m and 46 m, respectively.

The crane has multi-axle steering and lockout configurations. It can be operated without additional counterweight and with a reduced outrigger base. An additional 15.2 tonnes of counterweight, two 7.6 tonne blocks and a hook block for loads up to 100 tonnes are transported separately. The counterweight is installed by the crane itself with the outriggers engaged. A 10 or 16 m two-section jib can be used at 0°, 15° and 30° offset. The crane is equipped with an additional hoist when working with the jib for loads up to 10 tonnes.

At the time of writing six units had been produced. They are used for industrial construction, the installation of oilfield equipment and handling operations for weapons and military equipment.

The plant is working on a new 220 tonne capacity model. "[This] corresponds with worldwide trends and the need of the Russian market for high lifting capacity models. In terms of technical characteristics these models are comparable to their foreign peers and are thought to be equal as far as price and quality is concerned," a company spokesman says.

Eastern export

Russia is one of the major export markets for China, which is also increasing its domestic and international ranges. Major manufacturer Zoomlion says it is now introducing a series of its cranes to the international market: the QAY220, QAY260, QAY300, QAY350 and QAY500.

Its most popular model is the six-axle QAY180 all terrain. Features include an advanced multi-mode steering system, with over-speed lock-out, all wheel steering, crab movement and manual steering and controlled speed electric rear axle steering system.

Zoomlion's best markets include Europe, it says, continuing that there is also huge demand in Brazil and Russia for its cranes. The latter two have great potential, says Zoomlion, due to their geographical size and the large-scale construction programmes underway.

But, concerning capacity requirements, there are no set trends, says the company. "Big tonnage all terrains are used in certain tough situation, but the major demand comes from normal construction programmes. Although lifting capacities are becoming larger, the trend of big mobile cranes will be restricted by specific requirements - the trend is not fixed."

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