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Pick and carry crane road safety

This is a document that introduces a speed limit on pick and carry cranes, whereby under the National Class 1 Special Purpose Vehicle Notice 2016 (No 1) the State Schedules for Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania now state: “A pick and carry crane must not exceed 80kph.”

Pick and carry cranes are our most common crane in Australia with numbers in the thousands. I’ve written many bulletins about them due to the high number of risk factors involved, particularly mobiling with loads.

This latest amendment to the SPV1 notice however, does not relate to the lifting or operation on a jobsite, it relates to operation on the national public road network. Driving any heavy vehicle on public roads presents a risk and greater need for safe operating practices due to the high GVM and speed in close proximity to traffic and pedestrians.

When a crane operates on a job site, the personnel are inducted, trained and operating under guidance and safety protocols. It’s a controlled environment. On the open roads however, a crane driver must deal with the public and a higher amount of unpredictable behaviour and ignorance about the crane.

While many pick and carry cranes are capable of higher speeds, the crane industry as a whole has taken the initiative of voluntarily limiting the maximum speed to 80kph.

This brings pick and carry cranes’ maximum allowable speed under notice, in line with many all-terrain cranes. This is not an indication or suggestion that pick and carry cranes are unsafe above 80kph but rather, an additional safety margin should the crane need to stop quickly, take evasive action or deal with a sudden chance in the road surface or pothole.

When a vehicle is in motion, its stopping distance increases exponentially with speed. Its Kinetic Energy (KE) is equal to 0.5 x Mass x Velocity2 . So, reducing the speed from 100kph to 80kph results in a far greater reduction in KE than just the obvious 20%.

Another more common example is in regular driver training, we are told “double your speed, quadruple your stopping distance!” One major point of difference of pick and carry cranes is the fact that they feel different to steer due to the fact that they are steered via an articulation point in the centre of the vehicle rather than the front tyres like a normal car.

Pick and carry crane road safety

This is not a direct danger in itself, however if you hold a licence to drive an articulated crane but have not driven many kms on the road, it’s highly recommended you undertake the necessary training and driving hours while supervised by an experienced operator.

At the end of the day, while operating a heavy vehicle on the road, the consequences if something goes wrong are much greater than that of a regular motor vehicle. As operators, it’s our duty to put the public and our own safety first and operate in a safe and above all, compliant manor. Reducing the maximum speed from 100kph to 80kph will certainly make a big difference without adversely affecting industry productivity or efficiency.

This article was originally published in CICA – Vic/Tas Branch’s Crane Safety Bulletin #236.

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