Truck loader cranes, also called truck-mounted cranes or Hiabs, are a flat deck truck with a crane either immediately behind the cab or at the back of the flat deck. The crane is used to lift goods on and off the deck and is especially useful where a forklift is not available or is impractical, such as on a building site, or where a load may need to be lifted from or placed above ground height, for example, when lifting roofing materials. They are capable of lifting sizeable loads, depending on the size of the truck and the capacity of the crane.
To be able to use a truck loader crane safely, the driver must undergo training. Firstly, the driver must have the correct class or category of licence to drive the truck. The trucks are usually a rigid truck of between two and five, but there are combinations where a shorter rigid truck will tow a flat deck trailer, with the crane loading to both. For example, to drive a 3-axle truck loader crane with a gross weight of 20,000kg, a driver in Australia would need an HR (heavy rigid licence), a driver in New Zealand would need a class 4 licence and a driver in the UK would need a C licence. Part of using a truck loader crane is understanding heavy vehicle load security, i.e. how to restrain a load on the truck to stop it falling off during transit.
Let’s not confuse a mobile crane with a truck loader crane. A mobile crane is simply a crane on wheels, whereas a truck loader crane is designed to transport the goods it carries, too. These types of cranes usually require a different type of qualification than a truck loader crane.
There are two skillsets when using a crane: rigging and slinging, and using the crane itself. Rigging and slinging is the art of selecting and attaching the correct lifting equipment to the load so that it is secure and stable. Loads can be lifted with chains and/or synthetic webbing slings, and there are various types of hooks and shackles employed to secure them. Different types of loads have different requirements for where they are lifted and using what rigging.
Then there is the crane operation itself. A driver must understand the stability of the vehicle (it’s easy to tip the truck over if the crane is used incorrectly) and how to work within the limits of the crane.
Each crane comes with a ratings chart showing what the crane’s capacity is at different distances and heights from the truck. The higher the load is lifted, or the further it is lifted from the truck, the less the crane can lift. So, for example, a crane might be able to collect a four-tonne load that’s sitting adjacent to it, but to lift it 15 metres from the crane, that load might need to be split into 8 parts because the crane might only be able to lift as little as 500kg before the leverage of the load on the long crane boom tips the truck over.
Of course, the truck’s resilience to tipping is based on two things:
1) The length of the outriggers – these are arms that extend out the sides of the truck to provide stability and resist the truck turning over. If they are not fully extended, or the centre of gravity moves beyond them, the vehicle will tip.
2) The weight of the truck – the heavier the truck, the more it can lift behind and in front of it where the outriggers don’t come into play.
The outriggers also prevent the truck leaning, which it would do if it was just supported by its wheels and axles (pneumatic tyres and suspension components compress).
While we’ve talked about the need to do a truck loader crane course, other training drivers may need relates to pre-trip inspections (the truck must be inspected at the start of every shift), logbooks and work time requirements, and customer service training. This training creates a well-rounded, competent driver that can safely drive the truck, lift and secure the load and deal with customers as a representative of a company.
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