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Comprehensive Guide to Different Types of Cranes and Their Applications

Updated: May 19, 2023

Cranes are an essential part of the construction industry, offering a unique blend of power, reach, and mobility that sets them apart from other types of heavy machinery.

These versatile machines come in various types and sizes, each designed for specific tasks and environments. From mobile cranes that can be easily transported to and from job sites to towering cranes designed for constructing skyscrapers, each type of crane plays a crucial role in various construction projects.

In this post, we will delve into the different types of cranes, including mobile cranes, tower cranes, mini cranes, and more specialized models like spider cranes, gantry cranes, and self-erecting tower cranes.

We'll explore their unique features, advantages, and ideal applications, providing a comprehensive guide for construction professionals and enthusiasts.

Gantry Cranes

Gantry cranes, or portal cranes, are built atop a gantry, a structure used to straddle an object or workspace. They range vastly in size and capacity, from large 'full' gantries capable of lifting some of the heaviest loads in the world to smaller indoor workshop cranes.

Gantry Crane
Cab Controlled Gantry Crane

Gantry cranes are typically used for moving heavy objects in various settings. They are commonly found in shipyards, used to move large ship components or even entire ships. In manufacturing settings, they can transport heavy materials or equipment across the production floor.

One of the main advantages of a gantry crane is that it can lift and move heavy objects in a straight line along the track or rail installed under the gantry. This makes it ideal for tasks that require a steady, precise lift, such as positioning large parts during assembly.

Mini Cranes

Mini cranes are compact and lightweight, ideal for small and confined spaces. Despite their small size, they can be surprisingly powerful, with some models capable of lifting up to 10 tons.

Mini Crane
Mini Crane

Mini cranes are often used in indoor construction or renovation projects, such as shopping centres or office buildings, where larger cranes would be impractical. They are also popular in landscaping and for installing large glass panels.

Spider Cranes

Spider cranes, named for their spider-like appearance when their outriggers are extended, are a type of mini crane. They are designed to be incredibly compact and versatile, able to fit through standard doorways and operate in confined spaces.

Spider Crane
Spider Crane

Spider cranes are often used in construction, maintenance, and installation projects where space is limited, or access is difficult. This includes high-rise construction, curtain wall installation, and even inside buildings for renovations or installations.

Truck Loader Cranes (Hiabs)

Truck loader cranes, also known as Hiabs (a brand which has become a generic term), are mounted directly onto a truck chassis and are used for loading and unloading the vehicle. They are equipped with a hydraulic-powered boom that can extend directly from the base, providing a great deal of flexibility and reach.

Hiab - Truck Loader Crane
Truck Loader Crane (Hiab)

Hiabs are often used in transport and logistics, construction, and any other industry that requires the loading and unloading heavy goods. They are particularly useful when it would be impractical to use a larger, separate crane to load and unload the truck.

Pick and Carry Cranes (FrannA)

Pick and Carry cranes, often called Franna cranes, are a unique blend of power and mobility. These cranes are designed to pick up heavy loads and transport them over short distances within a job site, eliminating the need for a separate transport vehicle.

Pick and Carry Crane
Pick and Carry Crane (Franna or Tidd)

One standout example of a Pick and Carry crane is the Tidd PC28. This crane is renowned for its robust design and exceptional safety features. With a maximum lifting capacity of up to 28 tons and a compact design, the Tidd PC28 is engineered for manoeuvrability and performance.

The Tidd PC28, like other Pick and Carry cranes, is designed for quick setup and ease of operation. Its ability to navigate tight spaces and uneven terrain makes it a versatile choice for various construction scenarios, from residential building projects to large-scale industrial sites.

Pick and Carry cranes are particularly useful in projects where space is limited, or loads need to be transported over short distances quickly and efficiently. Their compact size, combined with their impressive lifting capacity, makes them an invaluable asset in the construction industry.

City Crane

City cranes are compact yet powerful machines designed for use in urban environments. They offer impressive lifting capacities and are equipped with support legs for added stability. Some models are even hybrid, reducing their environmental impact.

City Crane
Little Toot - City Crane

City cranes are valued for their efficiency, safety, and flexibility. These cranes are best suited for projects in congested urban areas with limited space, such as high-rise construction, renovations, or infrastructure upgrades.

Rough Terrain Crane

Rough terrain cranes are specifically designed for off-road and rough terrain applications. They are equipped with large rubber tires designed for pick-and-carry operations and for off-road and "rough terrain" applications. Outriggers are used for stability.

Rough Terrain Crane
Rough Terrain Crane

Rough terrain cranes offer excellent manoeuvrability and are ideal for job sites with uneven, muddy, or rocky ground. However, they are not designed for driving on public roads and must be transported to the job site.

These cranes are often used in construction, especially for building bridges, operations in power, industrial and chemical plants, and large-scale construction projects like airports.

Truck-Mounted Mobile Crane

Truck-mounted mobile cranes are characterized by their telescopic boom and hydraulic system, which allow for a wide range of lifting tasks. They are mounted on a truck chassis, enabling them to be driven on public highways and easily transported between job sites.

Truck-Mounted Mobile Crane
Truck-Mounted Mobile Crane

The main advantages of truck-mounted cranes include their versatility, speed, and ease of setup. However, they do have limitations, such as a relatively lower lifting capacity and stability compared to larger, stationary cranes or crawler cranes. They also require a certain level of manoeuvrability at the job site.

Truck-mounted cranes are ideal for projects that require frequent relocation, such as urban development, bridge construction, or road maintenance.

Truck Cranes

Truck cranes, distinct from truck-mounted cranes, are a type of mobile crane that are designed with the crane and truck as one unit. This design allows for excellent mobility and versatility, making them ideal for a variety of lifting tasks.

Truck Crane
Truck Crane - GT600ex

One notable example of a truck crane is the Tadano GT600EX. This crane is designed for high performance and efficiency, with a maximum lifting capacity of up to 60 tons and a maximum main boom length of 43 meters. The GT600EX is also equipped with state-of-the-art safety features and is designed for easy operation.

The Tadano GT600EX, like other truck cranes, is often used in construction projects where mobility and lifting capacity are key. Its ability to navigate on public roads and quickly set up on site makes it a versatile option for a variety of construction scenarios.

Whether it's lifting construction materials, installing heavy equipment, or assisting in building projects, truck cranes like the Tadano GT600EX offer a powerful and flexible solution for your lifting needs.

All-Terrain Mobile Crane

All-terrain mobile cranes are heavy-duty members of the mobile crane family. They feature large tires, multiple axles, and a powerful engine, allowing them to traverse various terrains.

These cranes offer high lifting capacity and long reach, making them adaptable to various tasks.

All-Terrain Mobile Crane
All-Terrain Mobile Crane

All-terrain mobile cranes are ideal for challenging environments, such as drilling rigs, ports, or remote locations where other cranes may struggle to operate effectively.

Crawler Cranes

Crawler cranes are mounted on an undercarriage with tracks that provide stability and mobility. They have both advantages and disadvantages depending on their use. Their main advantage is that they can move around on site and perform each lift with little set-up since the crane is stable on its tracks with no outriggers. In addition, a crawler crane is capable of travelling with a load.

Crawler Crane
Crawler Crane

Crawler cranes are used for heavy lifting and hoisting, and installing heavy prefabricated components. The fact that the transportation of the crane can be quite expensive is a disadvantage.

Tower Cranes

Tower cranes are a common fixture at any major construction site. They're pretty hard to miss -- they often rise hundreds of metres into the air and can reach out just as far. The construction crew uses the tower crane to lift steel, concrete, large tools like acetylene torches and generators, and other building materials.

Tower cranes offer an excellent combination of height and lifting capacity and are used to construct tall buildings. The base is normally bolted to a large concrete pad that supports the crane, and the base connects to the mast (or tower), which gives the tower crane its height.

There are several types of tower cranes, including:

Hammerhead Crane

Hammerhead Crane
Hammerhead Crane

The hammerhead crane is the most common tower crane used in construction today. The jib, or operating arm, extends horizontally from the crane. The "hammerhead", or giant cantilever, allows the crane to swing in a large circle and gives the crane its lifting ability.

Luffing Jib Tower Crane

Luffing Jib Tower Crane
Luffing Jib Tower Crane

Unlike the hammerhead crane, the luffing jib crane does not have a trolley but rather raises or lowers the jib to move loads. This type of crane is used in urban areas or near airports where space is limited, and the crane cannot rotate freely without infringing on airspace or other buildings.

Self-Erecting Tower Cranes

Self-erecting tower cranes are a type of tower crane that can be transported easily and set up quickly. They are especially useful when a crane is needed for a short period or when a traditional tower crane is too large or impractical.

Self-Erecting Tower Cranes
Self-Erecting Tower Cranes

These cranes are often used in residential construction and small commercial projects. They are also useful in congested areas where space is limited.

Mobile Tower Cranes

Mobile tower cranes combine the benefits of mobile and tower cranes, offering mobility and height. These cranes are mounted on a mobile chassis and feature a vertical mast, similar to a tower crane, providing a high hook height and a large working radius.

Liebherr MK88
Mobile Tower Crane - Liebherr MK88

One notable example of a mobile tower crane is the Liebherr MK88. This crane offers high flexibility and efficiency, with a maximum load capacity of up to 8 tons and a maximum radius of 45 meters. The MK88 is also designed for quick setup and dismantling, making it ideal for projects that require frequent relocation.

The Liebherr MK88, like other mobile tower cranes, is often used in urban construction projects where space is limited, but a high hook height is required. Its compact size and mobility make it a versatile option for various construction scenarios.


Understanding the different types and applications of cranes is crucial for construction professionals. Each type of crane offers unique advantages and potential drawbacks, and the right choice can significantly impact the efficiency and success of a project.

When choosing a crane, it's important to consider the project's location, the type and weight of materials to be lifted, and the crane's mobility needs. However, with a company like McLeod Cranes, Hiabs and Transport, the decision becomes much easier.

Operating a diverse fleet of cranes, including mini cranes, city cranes, rough terrain cranes, truck cranes, truck loader cranes (hiabs), all-terrain cranes, and even self-erecting tower cranes, McLeod Cranes, Hiabs and Transport is your one-stop shop for all your crane needs. As local experts in the field, they can provide the right crane for your specific project requirements, ensuring efficiency, safety, and success.

By partnering with a trusted provider like McLeod Cranes, Hiabs and Transport, you can navigate the complexities of crane selection with confidence and ease.


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