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Crane Hot Line

NYC Union Trains Long-Boom Crane Operators with Simulator

August 25, 2020 - Local 14 of the International Union of Operating Engineers in New York City is usinga a simulator from CM Labs to train crane operators who will be running rigs with booms more than 300’ long.

When the City of New York mandated that operators have specialized training on cranes with booms of 300’ and longer, Local 14 looked for a simulator to train them effectively before the operators got behind the controls of the real iron.

The union chose a custom simulator that CM Labs developed to the union’s exact specifications. The solution provided the detail, realism, and confidence that Local 14 required to maintain the highest level of competence for its crane operators.

The union set the level of operator performance high, and training operators to those rigorous requirements demanded the most advanced of teaching techniques and tools.

CM Labs’ reputation for replicating the motion and feel of real construction equipment, made it the obvious choice to develop the simulator program to train operators to run cranes with booms as long as a football field, or longer.

CM Labs’ simulation program gave Local 14 many benefits.

First, it lets the union grow its pool of operators who are certified to operate advanced crane configurations. Second, it provides year-round hands-on instruction. Third, it ensures that New York City’s strict equipment operator specifications are met. And fourth, it provides a safe and effective training environment while saving on fuel and equipment wear.

Once in use, CM Labs’ customized crane simulator exceeded the union’s expectations. It has accelerated learning and had a measurable impact on safety. What’s more, the simulator has captured attention at the highest level and carried the distinction as the first and only simulator approved by New York City officials for operator qualification.

“People recognize that this is a dangerous business; and we’ve made safety our top priority,” said Training Director Tom Gordon. A 30-year veteran of the crane industry, Gordon handles responsibilities that include safety and training curriculum along with related equipment evaluation and purchase. “OSHA has very stringent safety guidelines, and New York City has requirements that exceed those. Simply put, we’re responsible for the safety of our workforce and people in and around the job site, and we take that very seriously.”

As crane booms get longer, they are progressively more difficult to maneuver. Driven by safety concerns, New York City imposed strict license requirements for operators of cranes with boom lengths of 300’ or more. 

Because large cranes are most often used within urban settings, training opportunities were not always available or practical. In the past, that entailed locating a specific crane in service and hoping to find time for closely supervised instruction. “You can imagine how stressful and difficult it would be to make that your first time in the seat,” said Gordon.

“This was an extremely complex project,” noted CM Labs Director of Product Strategy, Drew Carruthers. “We modeled the crane’s inner workings exactly - every segment, every wire, each component. We had to identify what could behave how, and why; and then model those consequences exactly. Our simulations had to allow the equipment to be pushed to its limits safely without exceeding the tipping point.”

CM Labs delivered a custom simulator that met all requirements and exceeded expectations. What’s more, the simulator carries the distinction as the first and only virtual crane rating solution approved by the NYC Department of Buildings. Similarly, the manufacturer was so impressed that they are using the simulation model to help showcase the crane’s controls.

“This was truly a game changer,” said Gordon. “It’s such an efficient tool, it adds another dimension and is an excellent supplement to our already stringent training protocols.  Our people spend days on the simulator; and I’m not talking about just new operators. These are licensed operators who haven’t operated cranes in that specific configuration and want to get comfortable with how it reacts.”


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