Load luggers 06 January 2014

Light-weighting, size reduction and improving safety have been driving developments with truck-mounted loader cranes. Steve Banner reports

Two fatalities involving lorry loader radio remote controls have prompted ALLMI (the Association of Lorry Loader Manufacturers and Importers) to launch a campaign to raise awareness of the issue and promote their correct and safe use. "Remote controls can bring considerable benefits and represent the right way for the industry to go, but they can also create some significant potential hazards," warns ALLMI technical director Alan Johnson.

He believes that the fatalities may have occurred as a result of the loader operator failing to isolate the remote while either attaching or detaching the load. "If you are not using the remote, then you must ensure that the isolator button is depressed," confirms Hiab national sales manager Alastair Evans.

The need to do so is at the heart of ALLMI's campaign. It emphasises that all operators using loader remotes should be retrained and reassessed periodically as part of, or in addition to, the basic lorry loader training they should receive. ALLMI has also produced a web-based video entitled 'Safe Use of Remote Controls'.
"Too many users make the mistake of assuming that you can play a remote like an accordion, but you cannot," insists Johnson. "What you need to do is stand still while you are using it and isolate it when you are not." He also welcomes the use of a 'sleep' facility on some remotes. "What this means is that, if none of the levers have been used for, say, a minute, then it put itself to sleep and cannot be used until it has been physically reset," he explains.

Already popular, remotes may become more so, due to increased pressure on loader manufacturers to reduce the weight of their products in the wake of the higher unladen weights associated with Euro 6. As a consequence, it is probable that the only levers fitted on the crane will be those required in an emergency, suggests Evans. "They will not be the main means of operating the crane," he asserts. "The remote will."

For the same weight-saving reason, operators are being encouraged to specify cranes with slightly smaller capacities – 11t/m (tonne/metre), say, rather than 12t/m – where practical. "Customers can save up to 200kg and moving to a smaller crane means that they save money too," observes Evans.

Reducing weight was one of the priorities when HMF developed its 30t/m HMF 3220-K. The weight of the crane in relation to its load moment has been cut to 102kg/tm. "We have also reduced the crane's length to a minimum," states research and development manager Gudmund Braendgaard. It takes up barely more than a metre on a truck chassis."

What about legislation? Two sets of regulations stand out: the Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC) and LOLER (the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998). The former dictates that all loader cranes with a maximum net lifting moment of 4t/m or above, or a rated capacity of 1,000kg or more, must be equipped with a stability monitoring system. The directive came into force in December 2009, although a protracted European wrangle meant that the loader standard – EN12999 – was not implemented until the following year.

"Such systems, which are designed not to be over-ridden, enable the crane to identify where it is mounted on the vehicle, whether it is sitting on, say, a 4x2 or a 6x2 chassis, and what the axle loadings should be," explains Evans. Having taken all this into account, along with the weight of the load being lifted, they determine whether the stabilisers should be deployed and, if so, how far they should be extended.

"The most sophisticated units we fit calculate extensions to the nearest millimetre," he continues. "If the stabilisers are only extended half-way, then the crane may be limited to 50% of its rated capacity." But, if the stabilisers are not used, the crane may be de-rated to just 20% of capacity, he adds. In fact, it may only be capable of being swung out of the way while a load is being fork-lifted onto a truck. Equally, if an attempt is made to use the crane to lift a heavy load without the stabilisers deployed, the crane should cut out.

Fassi's FSC-S package is a good example of the sort of stability controls now available. This unit incorporates encoders to monitor the position of the outriggers, along with an inclination sensor that takes into account the extent to which the truck's payload is acting as a counter-weight. It can also be used to counteract the effect of ground slopes in excess of 5 degrees.

As for LOLER, the requirement is that loader cranes be thoroughly examined at least once a year by a competent person. That's not instead of, but as well as regular servicing, in line with manufacturer requirements – which they are attempting to make this easier. Palfinger's PK 23002 SH, for example, features a maintenance-free extension system that uses synthetic material on the sliding sections.
What about the market? UK loader crane sales were healthy during the first three-quarters of 2013, according to Evans. Partly, that was a result of the continuing economic recovery, but partly it was due to orders being pulled forward in anticipation of Euro 6. "Industry figures suggest a total market of around 1,000 to 1,100 units during the first half of 2013, the same as in 2012," he says.

Meanwhile, loader manufacturers are continuing to develop their products – with, in Hiab's case, a line-up of 17t/m to 19t/m cranes. "They feature a control system that is a little more advanced than before," comments Evans. "They also come with a boom system, which can operate faster. That is probably more important to continental hauliers, though. While British fleets on brick and block work typically use no more than two extensions, the Europeans may use four or five."

For many new developments, the accent is once again on operational safety. For example, HMF's TX range, originally unveiled in 2011 as a prototype, is equipped with a device called HDL. This allows the crane's load capacity to be increased by 10% while simultaneously cutting its operating speed.

Then again, Palfinger's PK 10002 SH loader crane – launched at the 2012 IAA show in Hanover, Germany – and its PK 12502 SH stable-mate (with lifting moments of 9.4t/m and 11.4 t/m respectively) both feature Soft Stop. An electronic limit position damper, it gently brakes all the crane's movements before the mechanical end-stop is reached. Hence, any risk of jerky movements or a violently-swaying load colliding with something and causing damage or injury is reduced, says the firm. Both cranes also feature a reverse-linkage knuckle-boom, which can be angled upwards by 15 degrees, making it easier to manoeuvre the crane in confined spaces.

Those restricted spaces may be in environmentally-sensitive urban areas. At the huge Bauma construction equipment show, in Munich, Germany, last April, Palfinger introduced what it describes as a hybrid system for loader cranes. Simply put, it involves plugging a pump, used to power the crane, into the local electricity grid. The voltage required is 400V at 50Hz. This cuts emissions and reduces noise, too – a useful feature if the crane is being used close to city centre flats early in the morning or late at night.

Steve Banner

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Related Companies
Cargotec UK Ltd
DAF Trucks Ltd
Fassi (UK) Ltd
Hiab Cranes SL
HMF (UK) Ltd

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