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Truck Loader Crane Tandem and Multi-Crane Lifts: Understanding the Risks and How to Mitigate Them

Truck loader cranes are an essential tool for lifting and transporting heavy loads in construction, logistics, and other industries.

However, the use of two or more cranes to complete a lift, known as tandem and multi-crane lifts, carries a higher level of risk than normal crane operations.

In this post, we'll discuss the risks of these lifts related to Truck Loader Cranes (Hiabs) and the critical steps required to ensure safe operations.

Hiab Tandem Lift
Hiab Tandem Lift

Risks of Tandem and Multi-Crane Lifts

The use of two or more Truck Loader Cranes to complete a lift due to the weight of the object rather than the dimensions has a higher level of risk than normal crane operations.

If the lift is not executed properly, there is a risk of structural failure, damage to the crane, and injury or loss of life to the operator or others.

The risks of tandem and multi-crane lifts include:

  • Greater potential for structural failure due to the increased load on the crane.

  • Greater risk of tipping failure for the cranes involved.

  • Increased risk of damage to the cranes due to the additional forces involved.

  • Increased risk of injury or loss of life due to the complexity of the lift.

Why a Truck Loader Crane Should Not Be Your First Choice

Tandem and multi-crane lifts with a Truck Loader Crane should only be considered as a last resort when it comes to weight rather than dimensions. Many other crane options are better suited to these lifts.

Think twice before using more than one Hiab due to weight of the load.

When it comes to a load that is difficult to lift due to dimensions, two or more cranes may be considered; for Truck Loader Cranes, each should be able to take the full load, so weight is not an issue. During the lift, operators should ensure no side loading occurs and the cranes are clear of the load.

When more than one Truck Loader Crane is required due to the weight of the load, other options should be considered. A Truck Loader Crane is not designed to measure the radius, provide accurate weight readings, or deliver the smooth journey of other cranes due to the nature of the machine.

Attempting a tandem or multi-crane lift with a Truck Loader Crane due to weight, therefore, carries a higher level of risk and requires specialised training, planning, and equipment to ensure safe operations.

If you decide to press on, consider the following steps.

To help create the conditions for a safe tandem and multi-crane lift using a Truck Loader Crane, the following steps should be taken where you have decided, due to the weight of the load to use more than one crane:

  1. Determine the Need for a Tandem or Multi-Crane Lift The use of two or more truck loader cranes should only be considered when the physical dimensions, characteristics, or required movement of the load necessitates the use of more than one crane. Using a single truck loader crane or other types of cranes eliminates the need for the following steps and should be considered at this point, especially where the choice to complete these steps is due to weight.

  2. Use Load Cells to Provide Weight Readings Each crane should have an accurate load cell providing a weight reading throughout the lift (not a percentage of capacity) relative to the actual radius. As each crane's movement has the potential to impose greater load share onto the other crane(s) during the lift, a reading of each share of the weight being lifted is required so operators can clearly understand and react to each movement as their crane loses or gains weight. The operators should know the weight at the destination for their load share relative to the weight they currently hold during the journey as the load changes position. Having the true weight of the load from the load cells at the start also allows each operator to confirm they can achieve the required outcome based on known load charts at the destination. It's also normally easier to stop a lift at this point if load shares are not right or not what was expected.

  3. Apply Safety Factors Tandem and Multi-Crane lifts require a safety Factor. Section 9D of the Crane Safety Manual sets the requirements per AS2550.1 [3]. These start at a safety factor of 20% for two cranes, 33% for three cranes etc...

  4. Know the Radius Unlike other types of cranes, Truck Loader Cranes don't have a radius reading. Each crane in a multi-crane lift should know the current radius and capacity relative to the crane's load charts. To ensure each crane remains on the chart during multi-crane lifts, the radius should be measured and marked. As the radius increases, capacity decreases quickly, so knowing your target radius is critical. Remember, with a Truck Loader Crane, you may be extending the boom sections as you change radius; this alone impacts capacity. So know your charts and your radius.

  5. Ensure Adequate Training and Planning Tandem and multi-crane lifts require specialized training and planning. Operators must be fully trained on the procedures, techniques, and safety considerations required for these lifts. Additionally, a detailed lift plan should be developed and followed to ensure that all safety factors are properly accounted for.

  6. Stop Be prepared to stop the lift. Ensure you have a Toolbox Talk and a clear plan where everyone knows their role. Empower all parties on site to stop the lift.

Higher Risk Than Normal

Truck loader crane tandem and multi-crane lifts carry a higher level of risk than normal crane operations. Using a Truck Loader Crane should be subject to a risk assessment and documented lift plan.

Using a truck loader crane for multi-crane lifts when it comes to the weight of the load should not be your first choice. Always consider your options, and in this case, the type of crane should be a significant consideration.

If unsure, call us, and one of our Engineers can work with you to ensure your lift is safe.

Note that this post gives ways to mitigate the risks - however, we don't recommend using truck loader cranes for multi-crane lifts where the weight of the load is the catalyst for using two or more cranes. There are other tools available that make these types of lifts safer.

Light Vehicles / Utes with cranes.

These are relatively new in the crane market and often work very close to their capacity limit.

We recommend that you think twice when choosing to use a very small machine with a very low capacity or safety margin to conduct these types of lifts (tandem or multi-crane lifts) carry a higher level of risk when a single crane or a larger hiab option is readily available in the market place.

As a PCBU under the Health and Safety at Work Act - Think: are you taking all reasonably practical steps?

Ultimately as an upstream PCBU, you may be engaging the wrong tool for the job when there are safer options.

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