Everything You need to Know About Rough Terrain Cranes

What Is a Rough Terrain Crane?

Though there isn’t a standard definition for what constitutes a rough terrain crane, there are some characteristics on which most crane operators agree. To be a rough terrain crane, it must:

  • Be capable of maneuvering into and working in confined lifting spaces
  • Have the ability to operate on job sites with rubble and uneven surfaces, traversing unimproved work sites
  • Have one cab where the operator drives and operates the crane

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes a rough terrain crane as “a lifting device incorporating a cable suspended latticed boom or hydraulic telescopic boom designed to be moved between operating locations by transport over the road.”

How Does a Rough Terrain Crane Work?

A rough terrain crane sitting in a lot with other cranes

Rough terrain cranes have a number of characteristics that make them ideally suited for maneuvering over uneven and rough surfaces and around or over obstacles that would hinder other types of cranes. Below we’ll outline some of the exclusive characteristics that make rough terrain cranes so good at what they do.

Rough terrain cranes have two hyper-sized axles. Most rubber-tire truck cranes have three or more. The two hyper-sized axles on a rough terrain crane each have differentials for propelling the wheels – meaning they are all-wheel drive.

Oversized tires are mounted on these hyper-sized axles. These tires are significantly wider and have larger diameters than the tires found on most truck cranes.

Three steering modes are standard in contemporary rough terrain cranes that allow them to maneuver up and down steep grades, uneven ground, and obstacles, and through muddy, icy, or snowy terrain. These steering modes include front-wheel steering, all-wheel centric steering, and all-wheel crabbing.

Overextending, H-pattern hydraulic outriggers that can each be operated independently are another feature of rough terrain cranes. This means they have a wider center of gravity than both rubber-tire cranes and track cranes and can level themselves on uneven or sloped ground. Standard cranes have narrow bodies with elevated centers of gravity, making them unstable on uneven ground.

They are faster moving than other types of cranes. Due to their weighty outriggers, when you’re operating a rough terrain crane, you can move more quickly around job sites than with other types of cranes because you don’t have to worry about if the ground under your tires is level or consistent.

The load capacity for most rough terrain crane manufacturers ranges from 30 to 165 tons. This broad range of load capacities makes rough terrain cranes suitable for many uses in a large variety of industries.

The counterweight is carried on the crane, making it a quick setup before you get to work.

What Is a Rough Terrain Crane Used For?

You can use rough terrain cranes for all types of off-road applications and rugged terrain conditions. The primary benefit of a rough terrain crane is its ability to maneuver through and over unfavorable terrain and obstacles while carrying a load.

Another significant benefit is how compact most rough terrain cranes are, compared with other types of cranes with similar load capacities. You can use the cab for both driving the crane from location to location and operating the crane, which adds to its compact footprint that makes it suitable for tight spaces on unfavorable terrain.

What Aren’t Rough Terrain Cranes Suitable For?

The main disadvantages for rough terrain cranes are:

They cannot be driven on public highways or most other public roads. If you need to lift and carry a load from a job site across a public street to another site, or use a public road in any other way, you’ll likely need to use a different type of crane.

For many jobs, particularly those on uneven ground or rough terrain, it needs to be stabilized with the outriggers. The H-pattern outriggers of rough terrain cranes are part of what makes them so stable even on steep grades or slippery terrain, but they can present issues when you need to move a load from one location to another on a job site.

There is a limited load and lift capacity compared with larger cranes of other types. However, load limits can be as high as 165 tons, so whether this is a disadvantage or a nonissue depends on your job.

Evolution of Rough Terrain Cranes

Gone are the days of the “neck-breaker” small cab-down rough terrain cranes of the 1950s. Most contemporary crane manufacturers offer a host of features and capabilities for the modern era. This includes larger load capacity and better operator assist features.

A range of capabilities and technologies vary between manufacturers, so be sure to discuss the best rough terrain crane option with your local Maxim Crane branch when determining which type of crane is best suited for your job.

An example of modern technology at work in rough terrain cranes is Tadano’s proprietary asymmetrical outrigger feature designed to offer you maximum work value when you’re lifting over each area of the crane.

Tadano also boasts the crane industry’s largest rough terrain crane with its 160-ton GR-1600XL, a behemoth that has sparked the drive for innovation among other manufacturers. Competition breeds innovation, which is good news for operators and others who work within the crane or construction industry.

‌The Advantages of Rough Terrain Cranes on Your Job Site

Rough terrain cranes offer a host of advantages over truck cranes and other types of cranes. Some of those advantages are:

Tight turn radius offering excellent maneuverability.

Larger tires than other types of cranes, adding to their better control.

Better steering capabilities and traction. Modern rough terrain cranes have all-wheel drive and steering. This allows them to turn sharply in tight spaces even on muddy, icy, uneven, or steep terrain.

More power than other types of cranes of similar size and capacity.

Rough terrain crane advantages include: tight turn radius, bigger tires, better steering and more power. The disadvantages include the potential need for outriggers, limited capacity and can't be driven on public roads.
Everything You need to Know About Rough Terrain Cranes

Are Your Employees in Need of Rough Terrain Crane Operator Training?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires all operators of rough terrain cranes to complete training and certification programs. The certification program for rough terrain crane operators is similar to the certification programs for other types of cranes and forklifts. OSHA-approved training and certification programs consist of a rough terrain mobile crane training course, in-person or online, a written exam, as well as a practical exam.

There is some confusion about how often operators need to recertify, as the OSHA guidelines are not clear on regularity. OSHA is very specific when it comes to heavy equipment like forklifts but is unclear on many other types of machinery, including those used by aerial lift operators. Regulations only state that the employer must regularly provide safety training for their aerial lift operators.

Many employers require their crane operators to complete recertification every three years. Others might adopt a stricter annual policy. Heavy machinery training company Hard Hat Training By Safety Provisions Inc. suggests that industry best practices are a 3-year term before operator recertification.

Hard Hat Training by Safety Provisions also notes that in their experience working with OSHA, they like to see employers adopting the strictest standards for certification and recertification when the legal regulations are not clear.

How Much Is a Rough Terrain Crane Rental?

How much it’s going to cost to rent a rough terrain crane or any other crane type depends on a few factors. It’s also important to keep in mind that rentals in a large city or other areas with high customer demand will likely be higher than in a region of the country with lower customer demand.

The Rental Company. Some companies are going to have more competitive pricing than others. If there are many companies in a region, you have a better chance of getting a reasonable rate.

Size and Type of Crane. You’ll pay a higher rental rate for a larger-sized rough terrain crane with a higher load capacity. You’ll also likely pay more if it’s newer.

Rental Period. Daily rentals or other short-term rentals will almost always have a lower cost. However, if you’re going to require the rental crane for an extended period of time, the amount you pay per day will generally average out to a better rate than multiple short-term rental extensions.

Transport Distance. Generally speaking, if heavy equipment like a rough terrain crane needs to be transported to a job site on a trailer, you will likely incur a high cost. The closer a rental company is to your job site, the better the chance for curbing this expense.

Operator Cost. This cost doesn’t apply if you are a certified operator or have someone who is on your team. If not, you’ll have to either pay to become certified, or hire an operator through the crane rental company that is OSHA certified.

About Maxim Crane Works

Everything You need to Know About Rough Terrain Cranes

Maxim Crane Works specializes in the rental and sale of aerial lift equipment. Maxim Crane has a range of options in its fleet, including boom trucks, hydraulic truck cranes, rough terrain cranes, crawler cranes, tower cranes, and conventional truck cranes.

Maxim Crane Works operates more than sixty locations across the United States. Each location can provide clients with the full range of offered services, including management, rigging, engineering, and transportation to and from job sites. Maxim Crane provides clients with the resources they need to complete projects on time and under budget.

Browse through Maxim Crane Works Rough Terrain Cranes and learn more about the services offered or to request an estimate.


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