Mobile Crane

By Tabitha Mishra
Last updated: November 25, 2022

What Does Mobile Crane Mean?

A mobile crane is a hoisting apparatus that can move itself from location to location, with or without a load.

Mobile cranes are useful for moving heavy loads over short distances. They are also used by construction and manufacturing companies as a cost-effective alternative to fixed cranes, since they can be rented as needed and moved between sites more easily.

Safeopedia Explains Mobile Crane

Mobile cranes are usually mounted on crawlers or on carriers with rubber tires. They generally operate a boom with a hook suspended by wire ropes and sheaves. The cranes may be cable-controlled, hydraulic-powered, or self-propelled.

Compared to fixed cranes, mobile cranes have the advantage of being flexible, strong, versatile, easy to set up, and relatively compact.

Types of Mobile Cranes

Mobile cranes fall under different categories, depending on their use. Some of the most prominent ones are:

  • Crawler cranes, which move using treads or crawlers. They are very stable and can carry loads up to 3,500 tons. The crawlers allow them to travel more easily over muddy or rocky terrain. However, since treads do not handle roads well, crawler cranes must be transported between jobsites.
  • Truck-mounted mobile cranes, which are mounted on trucks with rubber tires. This allows them to be moved to new locations without being transported. Truck-mounted crane outriggers can extend horizontally or vertically, swivel 360 degrees, and hoist up to 1,300 tons.
  • Floating cranes, which are commonly used to construct ports and bridges or unload heavy cargo from ships. These can be mounted on boats or barges, hoist loads up to 10,000 tons, and transfer entire bridge sections.
  • Rough-terrain cranes, which are used in unpaved, off-road locations that other cranes might not be able to access. These cranes have engines that can produce enough power to operate the boom and undercarriage in more demanding terrains.

Various mobile cranes parked in a rowMobile cranes (Mazzella Companies)

Safe Operation of Mobile Cranes

Mobile cranes are among the ones most involved in crane-related fatalities. Cranes can collapse under the weight of their excessive loads and improper operation can cause them to become unbalanced, so following safety procedures when cranes are on site is critical.

Some of the precautions should be taken on worksites with mobile cranes include:

  • Only trained operators should be authorized to use the mobile cranes
  • Workers should use high-visibility clothing on the worksite to ensure they can be seen by crane operators
  • Never exceed the recommended load capacity
  • Inspect slings, chains, and hooks before operation
  • Properly secure loads before hoisting them
  • Avoid sudden stops, acceleration, or turns that could jar the load
  • Use taglines to control the arc and swing while rotating a load
  • Never lift a load over workers or over the cab of the crane
  • Maintain clearance from electrical lines and sources
  • Do not operate the crane if the load or slope lifts the crane wheels off the ground
  • Use audible warnings and operating signals to alert workers of the crane's movement

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