Operators and manufacturers alike sing their praises.
Known as telescopic-boom crawler cranes, teleboom crawler cranes, or just telecrawlers, these versatile cranes are increasingly seen on foundation, bridge, industrial, energy, and general construction job sites, and for good reason.
“Telecrawlers are becoming more mainstream for contractors,” said Brian Elkins, product manager for telecrawler cranes at Link-Belt. “They offer strong capacities in a small footprint, ease of assembly, and the ability to telescope with loads. They are increasingly more appealing in urban areas where their mobility can come into play, and in plant work and other locations where there are overhead obstacles.”
Since they don’t need outriggers, teleboom crawler cranes can quickly move from one pick to the next, noted JJ Grace, product manager for GHC cranes at Grove. “The ability to maintain 100% pick-and-carry capabilities on inclines up to 4° makes them highly suitable for repetitive work, or for setting up larger cranes,” he said. “Perhaps the biggest advantage of a telecrawler is that you can work efficiently on both even and uneven terrain with solid pick-and-carry charts.”
Common applications for teleboom crawlers include wind-work support, powerline construction and maintenance, foundation work, bridge and heavy civil construction, and they have become more popular in commercial construction, related James Land, GTC sales director, at Tadano.
One reason, he noted, is because of their ability to run across all types of terrain with tracks fully extended, retracted, or even with asymmetric track extension configurations.
A telescopic crawler is a multi-purpose crane, noted Brian Peretin, general manager of sales at the mobile and crawler cranes division of Liebherr USA Co. “They can serve on jobs that need both tracks and telescopic booms such as wind power projects, tandem lifts, and as assembly cranes on construction sites. Because they don’t have tires or outriggers, they can handle work where ground bearing pressure is a concern.
“Compared to lattice boom crawlers, telecrawlers do not have to be taken apart and reassembled,” Peretin added. “It’s not uncommon to have to maneuver on job sites and these cranes, with their variable position track widths, full load chart pick-and-carry capabilities, and 4° inclination charts, make them very versatile.”
Central Bridge Company in Jones, Oklahoma, first looked at a teleboom crawler three years ago during Sany’s 2020 soft launch of the SCA900TB.
Those projects have included setting 150' and 222' pedestrian bridges, placing bridge beams, and driving pile, where the crane’s versatility, ease of assembly/disassembly, and portability proved valuable.
The Sany SCA900TB telescopic crawler crane has a five-section, 154.2' boom and a two-piece bi-fold 32.8-57.4' jib to offer a maximum tip height of 209.9'. The crane’s lifting capacity is 90 USt at 10'.
“For a 222' pedestrian bridge in Oklahoma City, we offloaded the crane on the side of the highway and drove it underneath I-35 with full counterweight and the boom down,” related Gary Quinonez, president of Central Bridge. “We were the able to operate the teleboom crawler from one side of a creek. It was a tough location to access with soft ground that a crane on tires would have sunk into, but the crawler crane handled it easily because of its low groundbearing pressure.”
The Sany SCA900TB also lets Central Bridge maneuver more easily in compact areas where access is tight, Quinonez noted. “And a big part of the value of our teleboom crawler is that we can bring it to a job site with just two loads of counterweights and load them on the crane without needing much room before walking it to the site and extending the boom,” he said. “That’s the perfect example of a situation where a teleboom crawler is the ideal choice.”
“The ability of a telescopic crawler to pick and walk, and the variable widths on mobile tracks, make it a unique and versatile addition to our fleet,” said Dan Pollard, senior V.P. at NessCampbell Crane + Rigging, which has been using a 240-USt Liebherr LTR 1220 for three years.
“Its first job was at the University of Oregon for a sports field renovation,” Pollard continued. “We’ve also used it for steel erection at a high school and recently to raise and support parts of a new roof at the PDX airport in Portland, Oregon. Right now, it’s on site as a general support crane where we’re taking advantage of its two-load line system to lift and tilt and walk precast concrete.”
Craig Priewe is one of the most tenured teleboom crawler operators at Zenith Tech.
He has been operating the Waukesha, Wisconsin, company’s two 70-USt Tadano GTC 700 teleboom crawlers for the past two years.
As the Walbec Group’s heavy civil construction company, Zenith Tech uses the GTC 700s to drive pile, place forms, and do general lift work on a range of bridge, pier, and other construction projects.
“The teleboom crawlers are the best crane for tight corridors where there is not enough room to come in and set up,” Priewe said. “They also make long reach operations much easier where stick height is restricted. For example, you can boom down to move material and then extend the boom to place it, and in the process avoid issues with structures or power lines.”
For Priewe, flexibility is also a major benefit of the teleboom crawlers. “Set up and tear down is very quick and easy, and the ability to have many track width variations including different settings on each side lets you work effectively with many configurations,”he added.
When an environmentally sensitive and time-restricted project called for reconstruction of a river embankment and laying of a gas line from one side of a stream, Wisconsin’s Terra Engineering & Construction put its Grove GHC130 telescopic crawler crane to work.
When flooding led a trout stream embankment to collapse, it exposed a gas line that then needed to be replaced. “The Department of Natural Resources presented us with a very tight timeline to do the work and to cause the least amount of disturbance to the trout stream,” said Trevor Kauffeld, project manager/estimator at Terra. “This included installing sheet pile cofferdams in phases as the gas line was replaced and re-laid through the stream bed.”
The Grove GHC130 at Terra has a maximum capacity of 132 USt and a main boom that can telescope from just over 41' to just under 132' under load. The machine enabled placing 10,000- to 15,000-lb. loads at radii up to 95'.
“We wanted to use a crane that could handle a decent load at a long reach,” Kauffeld added. “This way, we could set up in one location and avoid the impact — and time penalty — of relocating the crane to the other side of the stream. As for the trout stream, things have pretty much returned to normal, despite having a crane on its bank for over three weeks.”
New Tech and New Models
At Tadano, according to James Land, a new third winch option has been added to the company’s lineup.
The manufacturer has also developed a number of specialty options, such as hydraulic tool circuits and a hydraulic powerpack that can be mounted in place of rear counterweight.
New as well is a system that tracks usage time for each function (swing, travel, winch) to accurately tailor the frequency of service required.
For example, if the crane is working on a barge and not using the travel function, the machine will not log time against the track-drive service interval.
For Link-Belt telescopic crawler cranes, noted Brian Elkins, the most recent addition to the company’s lineup is the 80-USt capacity TCC-800.
The new model has several new features, including variable track positions, the Pulse 2.0 load moment indicator (LMI) system, a new operator cab, and a longer boom than its predecessor, the 75-USt TCC-750.
The TCC-800 moves in two loads: a main unit weighing under 100,000 lbs. and an overflow load carrying 44,500 lbs. of counterweight.
Sany America, reported Joel Hicks, product manager, crawler cranes, will be launching the SCA1600TB, a 160-USt telescopic crawler, in the first quarter of 2024.
That newest addition to the company’s product line will join the 90-USt SCA900TB telescopic crawler, and will share critical safety features such as the standard LED work light package, comprehensive camera package including winch, swing, boom tip, and rearview cameras, and new load-moment-indicator technology.
Liebherr’s largest telescopic boom crawler crane is the LTR 1220, reported Brian Peretin. The 250-USt capacity crane has a main boom length of 197' and an 11' assembly jib.
A double-folding swing-away jib with extensions can provide a length range of 40' to 118'. Total boom length with jibs for the LTR 1220 is 338' and total tip height is 345'.
The crane’s maximum superstructure counterweight is 154,350 lbs.
With the 85-USt GHC85, parent company Manitowoc has added an eighth model to its Grove telescoping crawler crane range, related JJ Grace.
The crane’s main boom length covers 36.1' to 137.7' and the 49.3' bi-fold swing-away standard boom extension can be offset 0°, 20°, or 40°. A 10' heavy-duty jib with 10° offset is an option.
Other features include 36" triple-bar grouser shoes on the tracks that produce ground bearing pressures as low as 13.2 psi without load, and as high as 24.9 psi with load.
The crane’s several track spans cover both symmetrical and asymmetrical configurations, thanks to hydraulically extendable and retractable cross members. Maximum track span is 16.7'.
Features of the new GHC85 include climate control systems, air-suspended heated seats, load-sensing hydraulics, and dual-axis joystick controls.
Visibility for operators is provided with a color monitor that displays images from up to four exterior cameras, and a graphical rated capacity limiter (RCL) for load moment with advanced crane performance optimization and diagnostics.
“The telecrawler market is broad and diverse and touches many different sectors of the crane industry,” said Tadano’s James Land. “What used to be primarily a small, niche market for powerline construction and tank builders has evolved into bridge construction, foundation work, wind and large lattice-boom crawler support, marine construction, and railroad applications, among others.
“There is a consistent need for projects related to these cranes,” Land continued, “and there is a large portion of the industry learning what you can do with these machines.”
Other manufacturers are equally optimistic. At Grove, for example, JJ Grace, said especially with recent launches of new telecrawlers there has been an increase in demand.
Brian Elkins at Link-Belt said to expect steady growth in the telescopic crawler market over the next few years. “Infrastructure spending and renewable energy investments will drive the market due to the crane’s versatility and durability,” he stated. “New technological advances will also lead to market growth as rental fleets keep up with customer demands.”
“With the passing of the infrastructure bill, sound barrier and precast work is increasing across the country,” said Joel Hicks at Sany America. “Telescopic crawlers are well suited for this type of work because they meet job-site demands, are agile and boast full pick-and-carry capabilities.”
“Not that long ago, telescopic crawler cranes were used only in very specific applications, but today their adoption continues to be more widespread,” said Liebherr’s Brian Peretin. “Telecrawlers will continue to be more popular because of their productivity and versatility.”