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More than a Tool

Rough-terrain cranes are like the wheelbarrow of the job site.

That’s how Brian Elkins, product manager at Link-Belt Cranes, described the highly versatile units fielded by construction operations in a variety of markets. “They’re used everywhere because they don’t have a single application,” he said. “From lifting and moving large objects to assembling other types of cranes, rough-terrain models are a necessity on any job site.”

Elkins noted that RTs are popular with general contractors, utilities, on large infrastructure projects, in industrial operations, and increasingly in wind and solar energy applications. He added that rough terrains are the number one type of crane used in the rental market as well as with crane service operators. Elkins estimated that 75% of all cranes in those operations are rough-terrain models.

A case in point is W.O. Grubb Crane Rental, a Richmond, Virginia, company with 11 locations throughout Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. The company operates a variety of rough-terrain cranes, including its latest additions: Grove GRT8120 and GRT9165 models.

“We had a project where the customer needed a crane to set bridge segments for a bridge-tunnel expansion,” said Doug Adkins, director of fleet operations. “Initially, they preferred a crawler crane, but we realized the tracks did not provide the flexibility needed to walk between the existing bridge segments or to cross sections of roadway.”

The job required that every lift be made at 75% or less the crane’s capacity for the needed radius. Grubb determined that the GRT9165 had about 15% better capacity at the required radii than the next-best alternative. 

“It was the only rough-terrain model that could make the pick,” Adkins said. “In addition to more stringent safety factors written into project specs, bridge components are getting bigger. Materials are being produced as modular units because it’s more cost effective. That requires larger capacity cranes to set them in place.”

With the 90- to 165-ton rough-terrain class a growing market for Grubb, Adkins related a similar scenario using its new GRT8120. “Our customer estimated they needed a 130-ton crane, but in this case we were able to use a smaller crane for the job,” he explained. “Also, the GRT8120’s slimmer dimensions let us transport it without removing the tires. That makes it much less costly and cumbersome to move, and it can be assembled without an assist crane.”

Determining Factors

Dai Okajima, product manager for rough-terrain cranes at Tadano, which offers some two dozen GR series rough-terrain models, pointed out that crane users should always consider reliability and operating cost when sourcing new units. Safety, quality, and efficiency are what maximize ownership value,
he added.

“Important factors when choosing any crane include safety, reliability, transportability, and ease of use,” said Beau Pocock, business development manager at Liebherr. “Those demands translate into features such as RFID counterweight monitoring, real time ground bearing pressure readings, and more.”

Terex advised customers to look for rough-terrain cranes that are built with high-strength steel tested to withstand extreme temperatures, and rugged axles and machine superstructures to handle mud, snow, and similarly challenging environments. Other items to consider include engine power and traction efficiency for gradeability, operator comfort features, ease of access to filters and other maintenance points, and parts and service support from the manufacturer.

“The bottom line is that customers are looking for reliable cranes that are efficient and simple to operate with strong capacities and long boom lengths to provide the versatility needed for a wide array of applications,” said John Bair, product manager, rough terrains at Grove. “Another important consideration is economical transport for cranes that can be hauled on a single trailer, and that are designed to load out in as few loads as possible, while also ensuring they can assemble themselves on the job site. That allows fast setup and lower freight costs.”

Link-Belt’s Elkins said that it all starts with determining a working range and the weight of the loads you want to lift. He added that, “Transportability without needing extra truckloads of counterweight brings down the cost of getting a rough-terrain crane to job sites.” 

Variety of Models

Link-Belt offers seven rough-terrain models in capacities from 65 to 160 U.S. tons and with 4-, 5-, and 6-section booms in lengths from 35.5' to 195.3'. Maximum tip heights range from 123' to 311'. Its latest model, introduced last fall, is the 85-USt 85|RT, which transports at less than 105,000 lbs. with full counterweight and under 86,000 lbs. with no counterweight. The model comes with a full-power, five-section, 38'-142' formed boom.

The GR-1300XL-4 is Tadano’s latest rough-terrain crane, noted Dai Okajima. The 130-USt model features a 183.7' boom and a 28' long two-axle carrier. With a GVW of 158,100 lbs. (114,600 lbs. plus 43,500 lbs. of counterweight), the GR-1300XL-4 can be transported on two trailers.

“Traditionally in North America, 130-USt rough-terrain cranes were designed around lifting capacity with a short boom and a long carrier,” Okajima said. “The GR-1300XL-4 introduced a focus on strong lifting capacity, a long 183.7' boom, and a compact two-axle carrier. Customers who currently own a 100- to 120-USt rough-terrain crane are able to field the GR-1300XL-4 130-USt with just one additional trailer.”

The new Terex TRT 90 rough-terrain crane has a 99-USt maximum lifting capacity, a maximum main boom length of 154' and a maximum tip height of 162.4'.

Also new from Terex is the TRT 80, an 88-USt capacity model with a main boom length of 138' and a maximum tip height of 148'. Both models feature a five-section boom with three telescoping modes and can be fitted with an additional two-section jib.

Terex offers the TRT 35 rough-terrain crane. The 39-USt capacity model has a four-section, 99', telescopic boom with a maximum tip height of 107.6'. Adding an optional 26.2' lattice jib increases the maximum tip height to 134.8'.

Liebherr currently offers two rough terrain cranes. One is the LRT1090-2.1 with a 100-USt maximum capacity, a 39'-154' telescopic boom, and, with optional jib, a 215' maximum hoisting height. The other is the LRT1100-2.1. It can lift 110 USt, has a 41'-164' telescopic boom, and a 226' maximum hoisting height with jib.

Grove’s rough-terrain product line spans 11 models ranging from 30 to 165 USt and 95' to 205' of telescopic boom. The company’s most recent introductions, which it said reflect the trend toward higher capacities and longer booms, include the GRT8120, a 120-USt crane with a 197' boom, and the 165-USt GRT9165 with a 205' boom.

Advanced Technologies

Rough-terrain crane manufacturers have also developed a range of new technologies. For example, all Grove models incorporate the Manitowoc Crane Control System (CCS), a common operating platform across product lines. The GRT8120 and GRT9165 also feature a boom configurator mode for on-board lift planning.

On the GRT8120 and GRT9165, Grove also offers the oCSI (on-Crane Service Interface) diagnostic and monitoring system to simplify service. Additionally, the GRT8120 has MAXbase, an asymmetrical outrigger positioning system for versatility during job-site setup.

Tadano introduced several new technologies on its GR-1300XL-4. They include the Tadano View System. Its cameras on the right front and rear of the crane feed a monitor in the operator’s cab to provide clear views of blind spots. There is also the Clearance Sonar system to warn of obstacles behind
the crane.

The Tadano GR-1300XL-4 crane also now has a new eco function that automatically disconnects the hydraulic pump to reduce fuel consumption when the crane is not in use for a duration of time. In addition, the Hello-Data-Link connects a crane to mobile devices via in-cab Wi-Fi so fleet managers can receive operating status, indications, error codes, and other information in real time.

Liebherr’s newly added technology includes an assembly jib that allows up to four parts of line so operators can safely turn loads with the added capacity of two load blocks. For transport, the swing-away jib is folded to the left side, which enables simultaneous transport of the special swing-away jib, double swing-away jib, and rooster sheave on the boom. Also, a new counterweight upgrade allows higher capacities.

Advanced technology from Terex includes the TEOS (Terex Operating System) that provides information on visibility, an intuitive navigation capability, and diagnostics. TEOS options include cameras incorporated in the main display and radio remote control. The company’s T-Link telematics can also be managed from the display to allow remote access to crane operating data.

Link-Belt Cranes features the Link-Belt Pulse 2.0 operating system with a touch screen interface, large customizable display, and remote updating. Pulse 2.0 works with the manufacturer’s V-CALC (Variable Confined Area Lifting Capacities) system, which provides virtually infinite outrigger configurations, real-time 360° capacity charts, and the ability for operators to preview real-time capacities for the crane’s current configuration, as well as the next five radii for a selected boom angle. 

Link-Belt also offers SmartFly, its one-person jib-erection technology that minimizes work at height. The manufacturer also offers a wireless rigging remote control for setting the outriggers and operating the boom hoist and winches. There is also the iCraneTrax telematics that tracks hours and mileage to facilitate maintenance scheduling, and also alerts fleet managers to equipment faults that need to be addressed.

Other technologies from Link-Belt for rough terrain crane models now include Link-Belt Site Vision, a lights-and-cameras package with heated rear-view, right side, and winch cameras, as well as four high-intensity LED work lights mounted on top of the cab, the right side of the superstructure facing forward, on the upper work platform, and on the left side of the superstructure facing out. Also available are single and dual floodlights on the boom, and remote-controlled boom floodlights. 

“Many considerations factor heavily in the product development process for rough- terrain cranes,” said Grove’s Bair. “New designs and components are proven through reliability validation and life-cycle testing. Those efforts are reflected in products that provide operators with technologies that allow them to be more efficient on the job.” 


Seth Skydel is an editor and writer with more than 36 years of experience in publications about fleet management, trucking, transportation, and logistics. He can be reached at 

Article written by Seth Skydel


Crane Hot Line is part of the Catalyst Communications Network publication family.