Starting out considerations of buying a crane?

JJM IV

Member
I am in Eastern NC where the trees are not that tall. I am considering a purchase of a crane. How will it affect my insurance, incl workers comp? What size should I start with? Making a few extra picks (vs huge cost) is OK. I run a single crew, have a 16' chip truck, 18" chipper, bucket truck, Bobcat skid steer and mini w/ grapple.
 

Gerasimek

Active Member
I'll jump in here with an opinion. I used a Palfinger PK33 and a Mecanil SG220 for 4 years in western PA with great success. I just sold it and have a new PK40 on the way. I can handle trees up to 115' although they are rare. Everything else is just really easy.
If you have the workload it's the way to go. The Tree-mek is really spreading with around 90 built by Palfinger USA in Tiffin, OH.
With a tree-mek you can operate with just 1 or 2 employees and get rid of unneeded equipment. Calculate the savings of getting rid of 1 employee and the money to insure him and youll. Enjoy really big profit margins, reduce risk to your life and customer's properties, and stay productive as you age.
I wouldn't go smaller than a PK33. A PK40 is a good all-rounder. There's a few in NC near Charlotte.
 

Steve Connally

Well-Known Member
As far as insurance goes...........If you get insurance from someone who actually deals with our industry it isn't cheap. Several different policies just to cover the truck, then the liability insurance. I pay about $11,000 a year for my policy but then I also have riggers insurance for the possible industry lift. That policy doesn't cover workers comp and it is also based on net income. I have a Knuckle Boom for exactly the reasons stated above. I am also just a subcontractor to other tree services. I've done a lot of crane work and worked for a few years for a company who had a 17t stick. Tiny little truck but we slayed some monsters with it. You can do a lot with a small crane and a good climber. I had my doubt's when I first started but the challenges of a small chart was actually pretty fun and kept me climbing instead of being a hook baby. I've always felt like a 30t series stick was golden for our industry. Handles most trees and isn't a huge piece of iron. If the tree is too big then bring the occasional rental. Honestly, unless you're in Charlotte or the mountains the trees on average aren't that huge. I'd still go with a kboom although I want the Albach Fallbach as my next purchase.
 

Baja Mike

Active Member
Lots of factors. As far as size you need to look at your service areas and see what will work best for you. If you have 50 by 100
properties a 33 or 40 rear mount is the ticket. Do you want to plywood in driveways with my 33 I don’t need to, once you start going bigger it becomes questionable. I still plywood some aprons and or thin driveways. I still need to rent larger stick cranes if their is no rental service by you a 65 is a nice all around size.
I have the 33 thinking about keeping that an adding a 88 or a 40 ton stick crane in the next year or so. Or possibly selling the 33 eventually and getting a 65. I love the size of the 33 the weight and the ease of setup it truly is an awesome machine. I am working this year on efficiency.
Insurance call your agent.
Tree Meks cost big money but make big money with a small crew. Only you will know what works best for you and your company. Best advice go watch one work with an experienced operator for 2-3 daysand you will know what it can and can’t do.
Good Luck with whatever you choose
 

christreez

Active Member
When I first started doing tree work the company had 2 14 or 15t units with 63 foot of stick we did a lot with those things. small truck went in places you wouldn't imagine getting a bigger truck. We upgraded to an 18t with 70 foot of stick on a big Pete chassis it's a bitch to get in tight places but is a beast offroad and that extra 7 feet of stick makes a huge difference! But honestly tho the 18t is too short (wish owner would have consulted the crane operator and crews b4 just wiping out the check book) a 23t is the smallest I would go 92 feet would be amazing. When you are boomed all the way out and start getting pretty far out your capacity is getting pretty small but still beats dragging brush or fighting the prized jap maple below! The 23t is still on your generic tandem axle chassis

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Fivepoints

Active Member
I have a 35 ton grove. It has a 104' main boom and a 32' jib. We have some fairly large trees in our area. We had to put the jib out a couple of weeks ago as the 104' of main boom wasn't enough. Before I bought one, we spent a lot of time renting. For us, it got to the point hat we were having trouble getting enough availability. We rented a 28t, 40t, and 70t stick cranes on a regular basis. Another thing to keep in mind is look at the charts at a realistic distance for doing tree work. The 28t we rented has only slightly more than half the chart at 50 ft radius than my 35t. Remember you only want to be working at 60 percent of the chart for safety factor. It's not hat you can't work the full chart, but what happens when that top you took is heavier than you thought because it's more filled out with brush and has more crotches. The downsides to my 35t is it is slow to drive, harder to drive than a boom truck, and doesn't fit in tight spots very easily. On the plus side, it has a good chart and lots of reach. It's kind overkill for smaller jobs. At some point I may get a 23t to 28t boom truck for smaller lighter stuff where you still really want a crane and access is tight.

Have you been renting cranes? Its a great way to try some different sizes so you can figure out what works best in your area. You will need to ad an inland marine policy to cover your crane itself. Our liability policy was already covering us for doing tree work with a crane so we didn't have to change anything there.
 

MalcolmJeffris

New Member
We have 4-5 clients that have added cranes in the last year and have been able to insure them fairly easily. Fairly*. Make sure you check with your insurance company before you purchase the crane to see if they're willing to add it. Sometimes the replacement cost alone can scare them away. If your auto/liability carrier won't cover it, a stand alone policy can get expensive.

As for the process, I agree with Fivepoints. Renting seems to be the best way to find the right fit. Just make sure you have "hired auto physical damage" on auto or "rented equipment" coverage on your inland marine policy(depending on what you go with) so you're covered if something happens while renting. Once you find the right fit, insurance company's will ask for photo's, experience of operator's, and total cost. Policy will probably come with a high deductible. Depending on the cost to replace, it's been about $3-6k to add them onto our clients policies that already have auto/liability/inland marine. They like the replacement costs to be below $250k but have added ones up to $400k+.

Work comp shouldn't change much if at all. Also check for crane/boom exclusions on your policy.
 
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