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From residential builds to industrial builds to public works projects, cranes are indisputably instrumental around the world at construction sites. Cranes allow heavy payloads to be lifted safely and accurately. A wide range of crane types exists and they lift payloads safely and accurately anywhere from a single foot high to allow horizontal transportation to hoisting items up over 30 stories high.

On construction sites, cranes serve two main purposes. First, cranes help to transport or deliver heavy equipment and parts from one area of the build site to another. Second, cranes lift equipment and structures into position.

As the Civil Engineering Portal explains, “cranes for construction are normally temporary structures, either fixed to the ground or mounted on a purpose built vehicle.” One of the most impressive structures on a construction site is the tower crane.

A BrightHub Engineering article on the many different types of cranes used by the construction industry notes that tower cranes are “used in the construction of tall buildings can reach up to 265 feet, out to 230 feet, and lift a total of approximately 20 tons.”

However, despite its impressive reach and load capability, the tower crane comes with a major drawback.

The article continues that they are “fixed to the ground during the construction period” and are “always mounted over a strong concrete pad so that anchor bolts can be embedded into the pad, which hold the tower crane when it is lifting heavy loads.” Since they must be transported, assembled, and then disassembled, these cranes are usually only installed at sites engaged in building tall structures.

Although may cranes are transported to and from construction sites and several types of cranes require assembly and disassembly, most cranes are mobile. They can be mounted on trucks or equipped with engines to allow for mobility around the worksite, between sites, and even on the highway. Mobile cranes are diverse and fulfil a variety of needs on construction sites. Below are the major categories of mobile cranes and their advantages.

  1. Vehicle Mounted Cranes – Mobile cranes of this kind are frequently used in the transportation of equipment to and from worksites. A telescopic boom is mounted onto a mobile platform and “hinged at the bottom and can be either raised or lowered by cables or hydraulic cylinders” (Civil Engineering Portal).Often outriggers are coupled with such cranes from the truck’s base for stability when lifting loads over a certain weight (maximum weight’s vary according to rig specifications). These cranes are ideal for mobility across paved areas and can safely drive long distances just a few miles per hour under most highway speed limits.
  2. Hydraulic Truck Cranes – An article titled, 5 Types of Cranes and What They’re Used For, calls hydraulic truck cranes “the standard in mobile cranes” and names them as essential to building major projects like bridges, buildings, airports, roadways, and more.” Using hydraulic lifts, these mobile cranes can navigate a worksite, and manage heavy payloads into the thousands of pounds.
  3. Loader Crane – Another hydraulic crane, this type of crane is “fitted to a trailer” instead of mounted on a truck. Its hydraulic arm is “used to load equipment onto a trailer. The numerous sections can be folded into a small space when the crane isn’t in use” (Civil Engineering Portal).
  4. Rough Terrain Crane For building sites with unleveled ground or access points that are uneven or unstable, rough terrain cranes offer a stable option for moving heavy parts and equipment or erecting structures.Rough terrain cranes are single engine cranes are specially mounted on trucks and can extend both vertically and horizontally. Brighthub Engineering notes that rough terrain cranes are “mounted to an undercarriage that has rubber tires specifically used for off-road applications” and adds that they are often used in tandem with outriggers for stability.According to 5 Types of Cranes and What They’re Used For, this type of crane requires transport to the work site by truck or lowboy as they are only allowed on public highways in Japan.
  5. All Terrain Cranes – All the benefits of rough terrain cranes listed above come with this type of crane. Additionally, they drive well on paved highways and can reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour regardless of terrain so transport to and from the construction site is not necessary.
  6. Crawler Crane – These self-propelled cranes are mobile but do not require outriggers to stabilize them when erected. As BrightHub Engineering explains, they are “mounted to a chassis with a set of tracks instead of tires and has a lifting capacity from 40 tons to 3500 tons.” Like the thick tracks used to propel tanks forward, these cranes derive their stabilize from their thickness and the weight of the crane itself.Crawler cranes are ideal for use in hoisting on non-paved surfaces but move slowly and therefore must be transported to and from the construction site and are usually disassembled and then reassembled onsite.


When selecting a crane to use on a construction site, the weight and height capabilities required of the crane as well as the type of construction site and the topography of the site determine which crane should be used. To consult with experts or contract services, please contact H. Brown.


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