How to make renting a crane an uplifting experience

December 14, 2015
by Robert Garment, Executive Editor
When your facility is planning to install a piece of equipment (such as a large air conditioning unit) that requires a mobile hydraulic crane, keep in mind that renting a crane is only part of the job. You also need a rigger. The rigger is the person (or people) who will put the straps, chains and cables in place that make the “lift” or “pick,” as it is called in the trade, possible. Riggers can also do the many other tasks needed to be accomplished, based on complexity and nature of the job. Depending on your region of the country, some crane rental companies will also provide the rigging crew, but that’s usually not the case in most big cities.

“When you need a crane, you really need a rigger and a crane, and I’d look for a rigger first,” says Michael Ahng of LaGrange Crane Service. “They can take a lot off your plate. They get involved in all aspects of a job, not just the lift. “If windows have to come out or doors removed to provide access for the installation, however, that’s not the rigger’s job. The facilities management department at the hospital is responsible for things like that.” That’s just one example where you need to plan ahead and determine who should do what. Don’t assume you know what the crane operator’s and the rigger’s responsibilities are. Ask direct questions, and if necessary, get the answers in writing. Also, be aware of local union regulations and jurisdictions. Sometimes simply turning on an electrical switch, if not done by a union member, can have them shut your job down.

Start early to avoid problems
According to Ahng, the biggest problem when renting a crane is that “the hospital doesn’t plan far enough ahead when it comes to renting the crane. They get everything else in place and then call the crane company and riggers last. You don’t want your crane rental to be a last-minute decision.” Communication is the key. If you’re installing an A/C unit, you need to let the HVAC company that’s going to hook up the system to your facility’s plumbing know when the “pick” is scheduled, and if that date changes, let them know. Let the crane company and rigger know, too. We can’t say it enough: communication is the key.

John Cereghino

“When you’re renting a crane,” John Cereghino of JC Duggan says, “that’s a high-risk operation, so get your insurance broker involved at an early stage. Make sure they require both the crane company and the rigger to have the correct property and casualty limits for the risks the job entails. This is critical. And that ballpark would be limits from $2 million to $10 million. “You also want a clear line of responsibility. Suppose you want to save money by renting the crane yourself, instead of having the rigger do it, which means he’ll mark it up. Then suppose there’s an accident and something is damaged or broken. Whose responsibility is it? The crane company? The rigger? It’s not always clear. In fact, it’s almost never clear in those situations, and you don’t want to face that dilemma.”

You want a qualified rigger handling your equipment, and a qualified rigger possesses a certificate that attests to that. Ask to see it. The same goes for the crane operator. All legitimate crane operators are licensed, so make them prove it. You also want to get multiple bids on your job. “But as we all know,” Ahng notes, “shopping just on the basis of price alone is never a good idea. A low bid may mean the company might try cutting corners and that could result in major problems.”

What size crane do I need?
The size and type of crane you need will be determined, primarily, by the gross weight (and possibly the shape) of the unit being lifted. The other important factor is the distance the load has to travel from the pivot point of the crane to the area where it’s being installed. This will determine the length of the crane’s boom. It’s best to rely on the recommendation of the crane company and/or the rigger regarding the right crane for your job. It’s also good to get several quotes. Then you can see and compare the different mobile cranes you are offered and ask informed questions. Cranes always need travel permits. They’re all overweight, and many have those “wide load” tail signs which restrict the roads they can travel on. Ahng says, “the travel permit will map out the route the crane must take to reach your facility, and these permits cost money. If you change the installation date and neglect to alert the crane company, re-booking it is going to be a costly mistake.”

The following are the top 10 tips for renting a crane:

1. Spend the time to get competitive bids on the project. Engage your crane companies\ and invite them to perform a site survey.
2. Book your crane in advance. The last thing you want to do is not have the crane available on the date your equipment is being delivered.
3. Involve the site facilities team on the planning and coordination of the crane pick. They are vital to making sure that areas are clear and cordoned off.
4. If possible, plan your crane pick during normal working hours, Monday through Friday. Premium-time picks can cost a lot of money, and many times there are costly minimums associated with them.
5. Have a plan for rigging the equipment and have the proper rigging equipment on site for the project. Many crane companies can provide the rigging for the lift, but keep in mind they may not hook up the rigging to the equipment.
6. Coordinate the transportation of your equipment to the project site. Make sure you are not waiting around for the truck with the unit being installed to show up.
7. Inquire with the local municipality about permits. Some cities require permits for closing sidewalks, parking lanes and traffic lanes. Some will just require proper notice.
8. If windows, doors, or walls have to be removed to provide access, remember that’s not the rigger’s job, it’s yours, and make sure it’s done in advance.
9. Communication is key. Keeping everyone aware of what is going on is vital to having your project and crane pick go smoothly.
10. Always get references on both the crane company and rigger you want to hire. Keeping these things in mind can help you avoid unexpected costs and help your project go off without a hitch. The most important item is to get your crane company involved at the beginning stages of the project and keep them informed as you progress through the planning stages to the actual “lift” date.

Michael Ahng

Michael Ahng is project manager at LaGrange Crane Service in Hodgkins, Illinois. John Cereghino is vice president at JC Duggan Inc., in Brooklyn, New York.