The surprising advantages of truck cranes
By Niamh Marriott30 March 2023
Cost savings and convenient transport operations to site are obvious benefits of truck cranes yet new technology is advancing capabilities and offering surprising advantages. Niamh Marriott reports.
Customisation is one of these key benefits for truck cranes as many features and components can be designed and modified to meet specific job requirements.
“A truck crane, by definition, is a purpose-built chassis,” says USA-based manufacturer Link-Belt. “This means we can integrate the lifting performance of a truck crane into the transportation performance of the crane. When Link-Belt designs a truck crane, we are building a crane from the ground up. We are able to position axles or change the frame design in order to get the best transport and lift performance.”
“The standard commercial chassis is by design built to drive hundreds of thousands of kilometres, and requires little maintenance,” said a spokesperson from heavy lift and transport specialist Sarens. “In our experience, the running cost of the standard commercial chassis is much lower than that of a purpose built all terrain crane. The downside of it is less manoeuvrability.”
Transport considerations can be solved with a truck crane. “The main difference in design constraints between a truck crane and other crane types is the on-highway transport requirement,” Link-Belt says.
“A truck crane, depending on the market and machine size, may be able to transport some or all of its counterweight stack. This provides a huge cost saving for the customer in reducing the need for overflow truckloads and time savings when setting the machine up on the job site.
The Sarens spokesperson agrees there are cost savings to truck cranes, saying, “The running costs are much lower as the chassis from a standard commercial truck is built to drive considerably more than cranes typically drive in their lifetime. Also, commercial chassis are produced in higher numbers, making them more cost efficient.”
Link-Belt’s most recent truck crane is the 120|TT, which made its debut at Bauma 2022. The telescopic truck terrain crane offers all-wheel steer capability for optimum manoeuvrability in tight, jobsite settings. The crane has a steerable rear axle, four steering modes and is powered by a Cummins 339 kW (445 hp) EPA emissions-compliant X12 Series engine. It has a top speed of 55 miles per hour (90 km/h).
Link-Belt Cranes first introduced the truck crane market to rear wheel steering on a custom truck crane chassis 20 years ago when it displayed the 60 tonne HTT-8670 at ConExpo 2002. Link-Belt’s current lineup of truck terrain cranes has grown to include the 70 tonne HTT-8675, 85 tonne HTT-86100, and 100 tonne HTT-86110. It also said it will be displaying new products at ConExpo 2023.
Also at ConExpo, Japanese manufacturer Tadano will show two new truck crane models for the USA and Canadian markets, the 110 tonne capacity GT-1200XL-2 and the 72.6 tonne capacity GT-800XL-2.
With their low axle weight, narrow transport width and five-section long boom designs, Tadano says its new models can easily get special permitting for transport, making them ideal for taxi crane service.
These new truck cranes feature AIRTEK NXT and ROADMAAX – purpose-built suspension and steer axle system designed specifically for truck crane drivers. Boasting 12 forward gears with the ZF TraXon transmission, both cranes are equipped with disc brakes on all wheels. With their self-rigging counterweight, the new truck cranes are quickly ready for lifting once on site, allowing them to complete multiple projects in a single day, Tadano said. Meeting EPA 2021 on-road emissions standards, a Cummins X12 engine powers the cranes.
JJ Grace, product manager for truck-mounted cranes at Manitowoc, said, “What’s great about truck cranes is the flexibility they provide with different counterweights, and you also have the ability to bring a fall-off load so you can do multiple jobs a day. When you’re working with an RT or crawler crane, it becomes more challenging to jump from job to job every day. The ability truck cranes have to do multiple jobs a day is the big payback.
“The latest Grove truck cranes are the TTS9000-2, the TMS800-2, and the TMS875-2. Some of the advantages these models have over previous units are the CCS, our Crane Control System, which is now in our entire truck crane lineup; we’ve made our carriers lighter, so now we can road them in more states – they’re more flexible.”
Though crane manufacturer Liebherr does not manufacture truck cranes, it does offer two models of truck-mounted crane, its 45 tonne capacity LTF 1045-4.1 and its 60 tonne capacity LTF 1060-4.1.
Liebherr says the main market for these models is Europe, with most cranes going to German customers, though it notes sales numbers are much lower when compared to its all terrain cranes. Sarens has several Liebherr truck mounted cranes in its fleet.
“Truck-mounted cranes are a low-cost alternative to all terrains,” a spokesperson says. “A standard truck chassis, by virtue of its design, has lower fuel consumption than a comparable all terrain crane. Their use on standard truck chassis make these cranes ideal for driving on the road.
In addition to being road ready, use of a truck chassis for a crane has advantages in terms of tyres and other parts subject to wear, since these are produced in large quantities, Liebherr said.
“Our 4-axle LTF crane can carry all its ballast on public roads. This means it is immediately ready for action once it reaches the site and it does not require any transport vehicles. Various axle loads can be adjusted quickly, meaning that long term permits for many roads can be obtained more easily.
At Bauma 2022, the manufacturer presented its new 100 tonne capacity 5-axle LTM 1100-5.3 wheeled mobile telescopic all terrain offering features that help it compete with truck cranes.
The size and load capacity of truck cranes continue to increase, creating a wealth of opportunities for super heavy lifts.
New models include heavy equipment manufacturer Sany’s 1,000 tonne capacity lattice boom “truck crane”.
Tutt Bryant Equipment in Australia took delivery of the country’s first Sany SCL10000 truck crane earlier this year. Assembled with 133 metres of main boom and 12 metre fixed jib, the lattice boom truck crane was being commissioned in Yatala before delivery to its first job on a wind farm.
The SCL10000 has a maximum load moment rating of 12,100 tonne-metres. Its maximum boom length is 171 metres, plus 12 metres of fixed jib, in superlift configuration.
Power for the eight axle carrier is from a V8 Mercedes-Benz type 502 V diesel engine. The crane upper is powered by a Cummins Tier III (Tier IV optional) engine.
Commenting on the delivery Sany country manager for Australia, Neo Liu, said, “This model will set a new benchmark for super heavy lift cranes with the mobility needed for projects such as wind turbine erection.”
Truck cranes are also benefiting from new environmentally friendly technologies and at Bauma 2022, German manufacturer Böcker showcased its new electric truck mounted crane on an electric truck carrier, the AK 48e. It is a fully electric crane and aerial work platform mounted on a 27 tonne 6 x 2 Mercedes eActros truck.
In addition to the crane operating electrically, the new model travels to and from site under battery-electric power. Böcker said this development “starts a new era proving that the electrification of powerful crane technology and the elimination of fossil fuels on the construction site are already possible today.”
Truck cranes by design are great at getting to sites via roads, and once there, are proving their worth powering lifts.
“Municipalities invariably want something with large-truck capabilities, while still being small enough to enable a smaller turning radius in the garage” says John Orzechowski, municipal sales at Aspen Equipment. “But I think what makes this latest upfitting job unique is having such a large crane on a relatively small chassis, along with its hydraulically extendable outriggers and catwalk.”
The crane that was incorporated into the Chevy made life a little simpler for the technicians, by virtue of being part of a range that is up to 30 % lighter and 20 % stronger than competitive models, the company says. Requiring fewer setup adjustments, its 8.8 metre boom length improves access for challenging lifts, especially with the optional personnel basket accessory.
Like the truck body, which had to be designed from scratch, the tower that supports the service crane was also engineered by Aspen Equipment at its nearby Bloomington, Minnesota, headquarters.
“This truck project really illustrates one of the best things about my job — the problem-solving that is required when a customer makes such specific demands,” Orzechowski says. “We put our heads together and figure out the best possible combination of equipment and truck design, and how to make it work optimally to help them do the job efficiently and safely.”