Have you ever looked up at a city skyline and noticed the tall cranes towering above buildings under construction? Ever wondered how those massive machines get there in the first place? Transporting cranes is a fascinating feat of engineering that allows these indispensable construction tools to travel across town or across the country.
In this guide, we’ll walk through the various methods and equipment used to move cranes. You’ll learn about the different crane types, specialty hauling vehicles, disassembly and reassembly, transportation regulations, and more. Let’s get started!
The Impressive World of Cranes
Cranes are basically giant moveable towers designed specifically for lifting, lowering, and transporting heavy loads. They are an essential tool for construction, manufacturing, shipping, and many other industries.
There are two main categories of cranes:
As the name suggests, mobile cranes are designed to move around on their own or with assistance from hauling equipment. Some common examples include:
- Rough Terrain Cranes: Equipped with large tires for maneuvering across rough or uneven ground on construction sites. Many can also drive on roads.
- Crawler Cranes: Similar to rough terrain cranes but ride on crawler tracks instead of wheels. Excellent stability but generally not street legal.
- Truck Mounted Cranes: Cranes mounted on the back of truck chassis. Can be driven on roads to transport the crane. Limited in size/capacity.
- Pick and Carry Cranes: Extremely small mobile cranes designed for loading onto pickup trucks and easy relocation.
Mobile cranes may have telescoping booms that extend outward or folding booms that lift up vertically to reach desired heights.
Fixed cranes refer to those assembled and stationed in one location for long-term operation. For example:
- Tower Cranes: Iconic tall tower-like cranes that sit on concrete foundations and are the most commonly seen on urban construction sites.
- Overhead Bridge Cranes: Installed in factories or warehouses with runways built across the ceiling to move loads.
- Gantry Cranes: Similar to bridge cranes but with legs that make them freestanding. Used for shipping ports or storage yards.
- Hammerhead Cranes: Horizontal jib arm that protrudes from a central pivot to lift loads. Often found in shipyards or manufacturing facilities.
Now that you know a bit about the diverse crane types, let’s get into the details of how they manage transit to construction sites and facilities.
Transporting Mobile Cranes
Mobile cranes are built for moving and have features to allow transport from place to place. Here are some key methods used:
Driving Under Their Own Power
Many mobile cranes are equipped with heavy duty wheels or crawler tracks that allow them to traverse construction sites and even drive on public roads when permitted. For example, most rough terrain cranes can drive at highway speeds to get between locations. This allows convenient delivery right to the job site.
Hauling on Trucks
Larger mobile cranes may be transported on the back of specialized haul trucks. There are extendable ramps built into the trucks to allow the cranes to drive on and off. Truck weight limits, wide loads, and height restrictions need to be considered.
Getting permits for oversize crane hauling requires extra advance planning. Routes must be surveyed to avoid low bridges or narrow roads. Police escorts are often mandated to safely direct traffic when big cranes are on the move.
For the truly huge crawler cranes used erecting skyscrapers, they may be partially broken down into sections that fit on multiple trucks for delivery. This is also done to comply with road weight limits.
Fun fact: The world record for heaviest load carried on a road is a 12,150 tonne crane component hauled by a 96-axle vehicle in South Africa!
Sometimes road travel isn’t feasible and cranes need to be moved into tight spaces or difficult terrain. Companies get creative using multi-wheel floats, barges, or even just rolling along temporary metal beams to position cranes onsite!
Transporting Fixed Cranes
Since fixed cranes can’t move on their own, delivering them to the construction or installation site takes advanced planning and equipment.
The most common method is completely disassembling the crane into all its separate components. This allows the pieces to be trucked on standard flatbeds versus specialty haulers.
Tower cranes are broken down into tower sections, horizontal jibs, operator cab, counterweights and all associated hardware and electronics. A 300 foot tower crane may have over a dozen truckloads of parts!
For large overhead bridge cranes inside factories, they may be shipped in two halves then joined together on site. The runway rails are transported in standard lengths and welded together.
An emerging technology is self-erecting tower cranes which can unfold themselves hydraulically once on location, reducing setup time. The crane is trucked fully intact and only requires a few hours to extend itself versus days of construction.
Gantry cranes used in shipping yards are often assembled piece by piece directly on the grounds where they will operate. This requires significant coordination of crane parts, workers, and time.
Hammerhead cranes are also typically erected onsite since they are permanently fixed to pivots and needs to integrate their foundation into the facility groundwork.
According to a crane transport company, relocating a large crane averages around $100,000 including disassembly, hauling, and re-commissioning!
Key Factors in Crane Transport
Many considerations go into planning and executing crane transportation:
- Crane size and type – Dictates options like driving self-powered, hauling whole, or disassembly.
- Transport distance – Short local hauls have lower costs than long-distance highway transit.
- Site access – Available roads, clearance heights, terrain affects options.
- Routing – Permitting, escorts, avoiding low wires or bridges.
- Qualified operators – Special skills needed for disassembly, loading, driving.
- Time and budget – More complex moves require more time and money.
- Safety – Critical priority during entire crane relocation process.
Proper planning and preparation helps ensure crane transports go smoothly and safely.
Best Practices for Crane Transport
Follow these tips when coordinating a crane transfer between jobs sites:
- Research and secure necessary permits well in advance.
- Survey potential routes and forms of access to the site.
- Schedule any road or lane closures with local authorities.
- Allow plenty of margin in the project timeline.
- Verify ground conditions at the destination.
- Review electrical and clearance hazards.
- Organize police escorts for any critical maneuvers.
- Hire qualified and experienced crane riggers.
- Communicate frequently with operators and other contractors.
The Future of Crane Transport
Like all areas of engineering, crane transport methods continue advancing with new technologies:
- Automation will allow remote control or autonomous driving of truck hauled cranes.
- Modular designs allow for cranes that assemble quickly from standardized parts.
- New materials like carbon fiber increase strength while reducing weight for easier transport.
- Electric power will reduce emissions from diesel engines during crane relocation.
Cranes Deliver Safety and Progress
In our modern world, enormous machines like cranes are often taken for granted. But delivering them to construction sites smoothly is an impressive feat. Each successful crane transport represents the coordination of workers, regulations, vehicles and equipment in service progress and infrastructure.
Next time you see a crane towering over the skyline, take a moment to appreciate the engineering marvel that transported it there!