Signs of a comeback for the truck crane

By Euan Youdale23 February 2010

For 14 years McGovern Crane Hire has offered a range of services from crane rental to a comprehensiv

For 14 years McGovern Crane Hire has offered a range of services from crane rental to a comprehensive contract lifting service. Pictured left to right are Eddie’s father Thomas, Eddie and Kieran McGov

In countries where the all terrain crane dominates the mobile crane rental sector, a popular debate is whether or not the truck crane will make a comeback. McGovern Crane Hire in the UK has made a move by adding new truck cranes to its fleet. IC reports

After being a mainstay of many lifting markets for decades, truck crane use fell in the 1990s and 2000s. All terrain cranes, first seen in the late 1970s, replaced them. More compact and agile than older truck cranes, the all terrain, with its multiple steering and drive axles, easily navigates congested areas, tight jobsites and uneven landscape.

In today's market, however, dominated by the need to economise and by fluctuating fuel prices, new truck cranes with updated designs are reappearing in some markets, for example, the UK, to challenge the dominant all terrain.

An advantage of today's truck cranes is better fuel economy than an all terrain. "On an average run, we will save approximately 20 to 25 litres of diesel by using a truck crane," comments Eddie McGovern, director of E. J. McGovern Crane Hire, Ltd. in the UK. McGovern operates a fleet that includes all terrain and truck cranes. Where diesel fuel averages between 50 and 60 pence (80 cents and $1) a litre (for the lower duty red diesel that cranes can run on in the UK), it translates into substantial fuel savings over the long term.

McGovern' truck cranes are the Terex TC40 and TC40L. In addition to fuel economy, these new cranes offer lower short- and long-term operating costs. With one steering axle, truck cranes offer an uncomplicated chassis that requires less maintenance and can be more reliable than alternative crane types. Features inherent in the all terrain design are not necessary for all job sites which means customers can avoid extra costs when a simpler truck crane fulfils their needs.

The four Terex truck crane models available are the TC40, TC40L, TC60 and TC60L. Capacities are 40 and 60 tonnes and boom lengths are 30.4 to 44 m. "The TC40 and TC40L offer lifting capacities and boom lengths similar to that of 50 tonne cranes," McGovern says. Design differences distinguish these TC sries models from older truck crane models. "Our new designs are very compact for truck cranes," explains Julian Dyer, area sales manager at Terex Cranes in the UK. "They incorporate an all terrain crane on a purpose built truck chassis. One TC40 operator has announced regular fuel consumption as low as 30% of that used by a comparable all terrain crane," Dyer continued.

Modern truck

Based in the English Midlands, McGovern Crane Hire is a rental company offering contract lifting and crane rental. Even from the central location, McGovern's crews travel long distances to complete lifting contracts that range from one day to longer than three months. As is common in Europe, McGovern Crane Hire supplies an operator with its cranes and offers turnkey lifting services for the majority of its rental contracts. Eddie McGovern operates the cranes himself, giving him firsthand knowledge of what the market demands for lifting equipment. "The 50 tonne crane is the most popular size for the market in England, and customers are looking for new equipment with better reliability," McGovern says.

To help ensure reliability, the oldest crane McGovern operates is a 2006 model. For consistency, the midsize rental company has standardised on Terex. "Among the manufacturers we have worked with, Terex has supported us the best," McGovern explains. "Plus, it's easier for our operators and service personnel if we use cranes from a single manufacturer."

For the majority of its 14 years in business, McGovern Crane Hire has relied on all terrain cranes to fulfil contracts. Although satisfied with their performance, McGovern re-examined his business strategy after Terex explained benefits of its new TC series truck cranes. "Not every application requires an all terrain crane," McGovern says. Adding a truck crane to the fleet would give McGovern Crane Hire the advantages of low fuel consumption, a simple chassis design and fast on-road speed.

In February, 2008 McGovern bought its first TC40L. "Eddie liked the new TC40L and the truck crane concept, so he went with it," Dyer says. After operating it for more than a year, McGovern noticed key areas where it was saving the company money. "General running and maintenance costs are much cheaper, since there is not as much wear and tear on the chassis," McGovern reports.

The TC40L combines the compactness of an all terrain with the ease of maintenance of a truck crane, according to Terex. Its three axle chassis includes the front steering axle and two driven ones at the rear with planetary hub reduction and inter-axle and inter-wheel differential locks.

Combining an all terrain type upper structure with a truck style chassis allowed a design that can run with more onboard counterweight. For crane operation it sits on four independent, hydraulically controlled outriggers with level indicators on each side of the carrier. "The star-shaped front outrigger configuration makes for very stable operation," McGovern comments.

McGovern's truck crane has a 37.4 m main boom and a maximum tip height of 47 m. It out lifts higher capacity all terrain cranes at certain points. "Our operators like the fact that the TC40L has a duty chart similar to that of a 50 tonne crane and, at a 30 m radius, it will out lift a 50 tonner," McGovern says. This is due to the extra counterweight carried on the bed of the crane. Another feature is an 8 m jib with 20 and 40 degree offsets.

Truck cranes are built for speed to quickly cover long distances by road or to reach several jobs sites a day. Maximum speed is 90 km/h and the base operating weight is under 32 tonnes, at 31,900 kg. "It also offers quick on-site setup," McGovern further enthuses. "It's ready to work within 10 to 15 minutes of arriving at the jobsite."

Beyond its over-the-road capabilities, McGovern has discovered his truck crane also performs off-road. Applications for McGovern's new crane have been primarily with steel frame building and wooden housing contractors. When the company encounters a soft ground application, McGovern sends the three-axle TC40L rather than a two-axle crane because the truck crane spreads the weight over a larger area.

In the mix

McGovern has integrated the truck crane into its business model. "I haven't encountered an application yet where I wouldn't send the truck crane," McGovern says. "We have had it on rent about 90 percent of the time."

After more than a year of success with the new crane design, McGovern sees a place both for truck and all terrain cranes in the UK market and has added another TC40L to his fleet.

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