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Crane Truck or Mobile Crane?

The right crane for the right project is determined by a number of factors, including lift heaight, lift weight, reach required, terrain and safety factors.

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The difference between crane trucks and mobile cranes

Mobile cranes and Crane trucks are essential equipment in the construction, logistics, engineering and mining industries, providing the ability to lift and move heavy objects with ease. Among the various types of cranes available, mobile cranes and crane trucks are two commonly used cranes. Pick and carry cranes, spider cranes, tower cranes and overhead cranes are some of the other types of cranes available, each with a very specific benefit depending on the job requirement. Each crane type has its unique set of features and advantages, but we will focus on the two most used crane types, Mobile Cranes and Crane Trucks. In this article, we will explore the differences between mobile cranes and crane trucks, helping you make an informed choice for your specific lifting and transportation needs.

Mobility and Versatility

Mobile Cranes

Mobile cranes are standalone units mounted on wheels or tracks, allowing them to be moved to different job sites easily. They are highly versatile and suitable for a wide range of lifting tasks. Mobile cranes come in various configurations, including all-terrain and rough terrain, making them adaptable to different terrains and situations. Although these are highly mobile and versatile, many are not able to drive on the roads due to their size and may need to be transported to site using a lowbed truck and trailer combination.

Crane Trucks

Crane trucks or truck-mounted cranes are essentially trucks with crane attached to them. Cranes are attached behind the cab (cab mount crane truck) or at the end of the load bed (rear mount crane truck). They are highly mobile and versatile, travel on the roads and are not generally able to pick up very heavy loads. Crane trucks are excellent for applications where you need to transport materials to a job site and perform lifting tasks without the need for a separate crane. Typically, a crane mounted on a truck have lifting capacities from 5 Tons to 60 tons, 8 ton crane trucks being the most common configuration.

Lifting Capacity

Mobile Cranes

Mobile cranes are known for their impressive lifting capacities. They can handle heavy loads, ranging from a few tons to several hundred tons and even up to 1200 tons. Depending on the crane’s type and configuration it’s lifting capacity can be increased with the use of counterweights. Counterweights act as stabilizers for heavy lifts and sit at the back of the crane to balance the load. This makes them ideal for large-scale construction projects and industrial applications like large tank or equipment moves. Often 2 mobile cranes are used together in what is known as a tandem lift, to help lift a very heavy item or where space is a limitation for the required lifting capacity crane.

There are many variables when calculating the lifting capacity of the mobile crane required for a lift. The essential information required to calculate the crane size is 1. the weight of the item being lifted, 2. the distance from the centre point of the item the crane needs to be, and 3. the height it needs to be lifted to. These three variables will give you the basic requirements for calculating the capacity of the crane required. Other considerations are any objects in the way, temperature and wind or a host of other considerations, each different for a heavy lift. These calculations are made in what is called a rigging study, usually prepared by the rigger or if a very heavy lift, a red seal rigger who is a highly qualified rigger capable of making very heavy of complex lifts.

Crane Trucks

While crane trucks are capable of lifting significant loads, their lifting capacity is generally lower than that of dedicated mobile cranes. Crane trucks are well-suited for medium-sized loads and are often used in applications where mobility and quick setup are crucial. Common applications would be moving machines from one factory to another, construction of a steel structure, lifting beams or girders on a construction site, moving containers, generators, steel manholes or signage erection.

A Crane truck would often be used to lift and transport various items from location to another and then offload the items. De-stuffing top loading containers and offloading steel from trucks are common uses of crane trucks.


Reach and Height

Mobile Cranes

Mobile cranes are designed to deliver much more impressive horizontal reach and vertical height than a crane truck. They can extend their booms to considerable lengths, often in excess of 100m or more, making them suitable for tasks that require lifting heavy objects to elevated positions, such as high-rise construction and maintenance. Most mobile cranes have a static main boom that extends to a maximum length and then other booms can be attached to the end of the static boom to give it additional height. A lattice boom can add 20-30m or more to a cranes boom length.

Lifts with long horizontal reach are always the most difficult lifts and where mobile cranes come into their own. By adding counterweights and making maximum use of the outriggers, a mobile crane can be made very stable and able to lift heavy weights at long horizontal distances.

Crane Trucks

Crane trucks have a more limited reach and height compared to mobile cranes. While they can still reach impressive heights, they are generally better suited for tasks that involve horizontal reach and are commonly used in applications like material delivery and on-road lifting. Cranes mounted on trucks have a knuckle boom which is essentially a hydraulic hinge that allows the boom to reach further from the height of the knuckle hinge. Crane trucks also use outriggers to stabilise the truck, and depending on the crane mounted on the truck, may have the ability to use counterweights but most often they are used without counterweights.

Setup and Deployment

Mobile Cranes

Setting up a mobile crane can be a time-consuming process, requiring outriggers for stability and sometimes additional counterweights. Take for example a high lift at a wind farm. Setting up the crane and slinging the item to be lifted can take a few hours due to the extremes involved. However, once in place, mobile cranes offer excellent lifting times, exceptional lifting capabilities and stability, making them well-suited for highly demanding tasks.

Crane Trucks

Crane trucks are known for their quick setup and deployment. They can be ready for operation relatively quickly, which is advantageous for tasks that require rapid response and shorter project durations. However, this quick setup often comes at the cost of reduced lifting capacity compared to dedicated mobile cranes. Typically, a crane truck will drive to site, often carrying the items that need to be offloaded or placed. The only time-consuming task would be setting up the outriggers if they are required.

Typical jobs a crane truck is used on would be road construction projects to move barriers and bollards, construction of steel structures to move and lift steel girders and beams, lifting and transporting steel and plastic tanks, moving machinery at a business move, offloading, and stacking containers, erection of billboards and other signage.

Crane trucks are extremely versatile and suitable form many different applications.


How much does it cost to hire a crane?


Crane hire price calculation

Crane or truck hire cost (daily/hourly) + Fuel required (rate/km) + fuel to transport as well as operate the crane + Operator  cost

Site establishment or the cost to get the crane/crane truck to site would often be calculated as part of the hire from when the crane/crane truck leaves the yard until it returns to the yard.

Larger mobile cranes that require seperate transport to and from site will attract the cost of lowbed/step deck to and from the site as part of the site establishment cost.

Mobile Cranes

Mobile cranes require a substantial investment due to their high lifting capacities and structure. They are typically more expensive to purchase, operate, and maintain compared to crane trucks and for hire purposes this relates to higher cost per hour of operation. The operator licenses would also be for a higher grade of rigger and would also attract a higher salary, translating to higher cost per hour than a crane truck.. However, their capabilities make them indispensable for large-scale projects where heavy lifting is a frequent requirement.

Crane Trucks

Crane trucks are generally more cost-effective than mobile cranes due to the cost of the equipment, maintenance cost and operator costs. In many cases the driver and operator are the same person, the size of the engine is smaller and costs less to run than a mobile crane. They are a versatile choice for businesses that require both transportation and lifting capabilities but do not need the extreme lifting capacities of mobile cranes. Crane trucks can be used in tandem lifts to achieve higher lift capabilities.

Mobile cranes and crane trucks offer different advantages and are suited to various lifting and transportation needs. Mobile cranes excel in heavy lifting and are adaptable to various terrains, making them ideal for large-scale construction and industrial projects. On the other hand, crane trucks offer mobility, quick setup, and cost-effectiveness, making them a practical choice for smaller-scale applications where on-road access is sufficient.

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