What to Know About Hydraulic Truck Cranes

Hydraulic Truck Crane on construction site

Throughout history, humankind has relied on different lifting methods to build remarkable structures — many of which still stand to this day. Ancient civilizations used ropes, ramps, and levers powered by humans and animals. It took titanic efforts and years of work to bring treasures like the Pyramids and the Coliseum to life. Thankfully, modern lifting technologies allow us to create architectonic marvels in an easier, more efficient way.

Today, we leave all the heavy lifting to machines. One of the most popular on construction sites and in industrial settings is the hydraulic truck crane. The fluid-filled systems on a hydraulic truck crane enable this lifting contraption to lift and transport heavy objects like shipping containers, concrete, bricks, metal frames, and even other crane pieces. Most of these objects are generally beyond the scope of other lifting mechanisms on a construction site. 

These heavy-duty wonders play a crucial role in the development of many projects. But before you rent a hydraulic truck crane, there are a few things you need to know. 

What Is a Hydraulic Truck Crane?

Unlike other types of lifting mechanisms in a construction site, hydraulic truck cranes are heavy-duty equipment that rely on an internal hydraulic system to hoist and lift heavy loads. They’re set on wheels to give them greater mobility on the job site. Hydraulic truck cranes typically have an enclosed cab for the operator, set on a steel base, and a long telescopic boom that can be articulated or fixed, depending on each project’s specific construction needs.

Some other essential parts that of a hydraulic truck crane are:

  • Jib or pulley  This is the lattice structure that extends a telescopic boom’s length.
  • Outriggers – These are retractable supports that give the crane stability and balance by increasing its overall footprint.
  • ‌Counterweights – These are the heavy weights that keep the machine stable during lifts. They’re placed on the back of the cab and further reduce the risk of the crane tipping over. 
  • Load Movement Indicator – This is a safety device with a sensor that prevents overload. It lets the operator know when the maximum lifting capacity is reached to avoid crane malfunction and accidents.
  • Rotex Gear – This element allows the operator to make precise side-to-side movements during lifts. It’s usually controlled by a joystick controller located in the operator’s cab. 
  • Steel Cable – This piece runs across the boom and helps secure the load with a hook. It’s typically attached to a lcable that runs through a becket that is either pinned off to a ball or clock depending on the load weight.
  • Two-Gear Pump – These are connected to the hydraulic pistons, pipes, and hoses. It pressurizes the hydraulic fluid needed to generate enough power to lift a load regardless of its weight. 

Make sure your operators undergo safety training before they’re allowed to handle this or other heavy-duty equipment on the construction site. Inadequate training could lead to large-scale damage and injury. 

How Does a Hydraulic Truck Crane Work?

The crane’s hydraulic system uses pressurized fluids — typically oil — to generate all the lifting power it needs to pick up large loads. Hydraulic truck cranes use a fixed system of pipes, allowing for constant pressure to be maintained while the operator is performing the lifts. 

These lifting devices are incredibly stable. Normally, a pump generates the pressure that moves two different pistons and helps displace forces by moving the oil around. There are two types of pumps available for most hydraulic truck cranes in the market:

  • Gear pumps – This variety consists of interlocking gears that displace the hydraulic oil as the operator increases engine speed. It’s the standard pump system for most low-cost models. The only way to get high pressure with gear pumps is to run the engine at full power. 
  • Variable-displacement pumps – This type is a bit more sophisticated. It consists of multiple piston cylinders attached to a ring inside a barrel that, at the same time, is connected to a swashplate. To generate enough pressure, the barrel starts to spin, and the swashplate pushes and pulls the pistons in and out of the cylinder so that they can draw oil into the hydraulic system.

Both types can offer the crane enough power to lift the load. They allow these hydraulic truck cranes to lift thousands of pounds with ease. These lifting devices might have an apparently simple design, but they can outperform most other cranes on the jobsite.

How Much Does a Hydraulic Truck Crane Weigh?

Hydraulic truck cranes come in many different sizes, depending on what you need them for at the construction or jobsite.. These lifting devices need to be heavy and sturdy in order to stay stable while the operator is performing the lifts. When unloaded, an average hydraulic truck crane can weigh about 67,527 lbs. 

Hydraulic Truck Cranes Through the Years

Back in the 1400s, French mathematician, physicist, and inventor Blaise Pascal helped us understand the hydraulic principles by which all modern hydraulics work. However, it wasn’t until the 1800s — when industrialization reached its peak — that cranes started evolving. It all started when the manufacturers of these lifting devices ditched wooden materials and started building them out of iron.

The first cast-iron crane was built in 1834, but it was hand-powered. By the 1850s, steam power had taken the lead and was fueling heavy friction cranes, but the hydraulic crane that we know and love today wouldn’t be invented until nearly a century later. In the 1940s, Roy O. Billings, who was president of the Milwaukee Hydraulics Corp at the time, started thinking about a cost-effective crane with more mobility.

Billing’s dream came true in 1946 when he launched the H-2, one of America’s first hydraulic cranes, for sale. The device consisted of a truck-mounted crane with a telescopic boom that used high-pressure hydraulic systems to perform heavy lifts. The H-2 Hydrocrane could lift up to two tons. Two hundred units were sold in the first year alone. Some of the main characteristics of this innovative contraption were:

  • Pumps powered by the truck’s engine
  • Vertical hydraulic rams
  • Retractable and expandable cables
  • Operator’s cab

The first hydraulic truck crane kept on evolving. In 1953, Bucyrus-Erie Co, which purchased Billing’s company, developed the H-3, which innovated on the H-2 by including a truck-mounted backhoe. In 1955, the company launched the H-5, which was capable of lifting up to nine tons. Both hydraulic truck cranes were so successful that they were still in production until the early ’80s. 

The Importance of Hydraulic Truck Cranes on Your Jobsite.

Hydraulic truck cranes are:

  • Simple and easy to maintain
  • Lightweight when compared to larger, less powerful cranes
  • Flexible and versatile
  • Mobile and convenient
  • Compact compared to stationary cranes 

‌Setting up a hydraulic truck crane takes almost no time. The operator just has to drive it to the site, extend outriggers, and get the boom ready for the workday, enabling your crews to get started earlier and get more done each day. ‌

Hydraulic Truck Cranes Load Capacity

Before you decide to rent a crane for your site, it’s important to confirm its maximum load. Your loading needs will depend on the job you’re doing, and numbers can vary by manufacturer. This is the average load capacity for the most popular crane weights:

  • 10,800 lbs for a 75-ton crane
  • 11,500 lbs for a 90-ton crane
  • 32,500 lbs for a 100-ton crane
average load capacity for hydraulic truck cranes

‌Remember, although sturdy, hydraulic cranes can still fail if they’re not correctly loaded. Reduce risks by always consulting the manual and paying attention to the crane’s sensors.

What Types of Projects Are Hydraulic Truck Cranes Best Suited For?

Hydraulic truck cranes can perform seemingly impossible tasks. They’re often implemented in civil, commercial, and residential architecture. However, their superb lifting capabilities are also highly requested in other settings. They’re used to move shipping containers, vehicles, and even large animals when transferring them to new locations.  

You’ll typically find hydraulic truck cranes on construction sites for:

  • Airports
  • Bridges
  • Railways
  • Roads
  • Stadiums
  • Hotels
  • Apartment complexes
  • Malls

What Aren’t Hydraulic Truck Cranes Suited For?

Like any other construction device, hydraulic truck cranes have their own limitations. Before you go shopping for crane rentals in your area, make sure your job site is suitable for a hydraulic crane. Hydraulic truck cranes will have a hard time performing if:

  • The ground isn’t level
  • There’s not enough space to maneuver
  • The foundation is  unstable or muddy

Hydraulic Truck Cranes Near You

Hydraulic truck cranes are a construction staple that can expedite work at your next job site. They’re powerful lifting devices capable of lifting heavy loads, with minimal effort, in a matter of seconds. If you’re looking for hydraulic truck crane rentals near you, visit Maxim Crane Works today. Not only do we have a large fleet of cranes to select from but we also offer project management, maintenance and engineering services.


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