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What is a mobile crane?

A mobile crane is a wheeled, self-propelled vehicle with either a cable-controlled or hydraulic-powered telescoping boom crane.

Mobile crane with hydraulic boom and winch. Outriggers are extended

A mobile crane has three key benefits:

  • Flexibility to drive on-road to the lift location
  • High capacity
  • Fast setup

The largest mobile cranes in the world can lift over 1000 tonnes, but most in New Zealand would lift between 50-250 tonnes. The largest mobile cranes in New Zealand have 8 axles and lift 450 tonnes. The smallest have two axles and lift around 10 tonnes.

A mobile crane has outriggers or stabilisers which are legs that extend from the side of the crane and allow for a greater ‘working radius’ or the distance from the crane that the crane can lift a load.

Almost all bar the smallest mobile cranes have a separate cab for the crane driver to operate the crane from. This usually slews (turns) with the crane. Some cranes have remote control units.

Mobile crane with separate cab for the crane operator

A mobile crane is different from a truck-mounted crane (mobile cranes don’t carry loads that are unrelated to the crane’s operation). It’s also different to a crawler crane which is a crane on tracks, and a tower crane, which is a crane on top of a tall vertical tower.

With a truck loader crane, companies tend to own them or lease them long-term as they are an integral part of a company’s operation, such as delivering building materials. Drivers do a truck-mounted crane course to get qualified. With a mobile crane, mostly they are rented for a specific job, such as lifting a large yacht off a trailer or a turbine onto a wind farm pylon, and they come with a qualified operator.

Specific qualifications are needed to operate a crane in New Zealand, including a W endorsement and the correct type of licence based on the weight of the crane (most likely to be a class 4 for all but the smallest mobile cranes). Australian and other overseas qualifications cannot be mapped to the NZ qualifications.

Crane operators do not need to keep logbooks.

Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

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