North America

25 April 2008

Articulating cranes are less popular in North America than in other parts of the world, especially Europe. One of the reasons for this, according to IMT product specialist Jim Darr, is the number of material-handling methods available in North America that are not as practical for Europe. “Our two main competitors are telescopic cranes and piggyback forklifts [forklift trucks carried to and from jobs on the back of a truck],” he says. “Those material handling methods don't work well for Europe, so they aren't taking some of the market share away from knuckle booms.”

One of the main reasons telescopic cranes and piggyback forklifts are not practical for Europe, Darr says, is the laws on truck length. European trucks have to be much shorter than those in the US, so they do not have the space to store a telescopic crane or a forklift, Darr says.

Darr also believes that there is an element of tradition in the market, “Europe was in the knuckle boom business long before the United States, so the industry just kind of grew that way,” he says. “The knuckle boom market has grown a lot since they first showed up in the United States in 1960 but, because of the prevalence of telescopic cranes here, the growth has been slow and steady. And the growth is definitely going to continue because we're always finding new markets.”

An element of unfamiliarity is also visible with US buyers and operators, according to Darr, “One reason many people don't spend much time thinking about articulating cranes is because they are so comfortable using telescopic cranes. But if a crane operator were to step out of his comfort zone, he might find that there's no reason to be intimidated by a knuckle boom and that it might, in fact, be a perfect fit for his company.”

“People aren't aware that articulating cranes come with the reach they do today,” Darr continues, “they're used to the idea that if they want something with an 80 foot reach, they're going to have to use a telescopic crane, and they don't realize that articulating cranes have that kind of reach these days.”

Giovanni Tacconi, Autogru PM regional manager, says, “The American market for articulated cranes has been developing over the last 10 years with a low average growth rate but in the last three years we have registered a high increase in customers asking for a knuckle boom crane. The US market is still growing.”

“Growth is in the air,” says Ron de Vries, sales director of Germany-based Terex-Atlas. “We have plans to expand, utilising our Terex outlets.”

As to why the market is not bigger already, he says: “American customers are conservative and have been working with other offloading devices. For the more 'installation cranes' they still use the stiff booms and for the 'delivery trucks' they have attached to the truck mounted forklift and for the remainder they have not been 'forced' to provide this extra service of offloading the truck on the jobsite and lean on local help, like forklifts and telescopic handlers.”

Giancarlo Manzano, marketing manager at Italian producer Effer, adds, “Another issue is the higher cost of articulating compared to straight boom cranes and the fact that, except for a few very specific cases, usually the space on work sites is large enough to allow the use of straight boom cranes, whereas in the typical narrow lanes of European cities, a knuckle boom crane is often a must. Also the manpower cost (lower than in Europe in some US areas) can be seen as a reason for the relatively smaller market size.”

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