The UK’s Site Equipment Demonstration (SED), held in a field somewhere near Milton Keynes, is an annual event but only every other year is it deemed to be ‘a crane year’. This year the cranes are back and there is no bigger gathering of lifting equipment in the UK. There will be crawler cranes, a tower or two, mobiles from Liebherr, Tadano Faun and Terex, Valla yard cranes, and assorted knuckle booms. The crane industry will also be drawn to the show by a meeting of the Construction Plant-hire Association’s crane interest group holding an important meeting during the show.

But SED’s so-called cranes & access village will be missing some familiar names: no Potain, no Grove, no Demag, no Kato Cranes (UK). Also absent is Ainscough, traditional sponsor of the Crane Operator Challenge. The costs, they all decided, outweigh the benefits of this event.

These absences reflect changing times in the crane industry. At an international level, Grove, Demag and Kato Cranes (UK) are all at the rough end of merger and acquisition activity. (Kato UK is part of the Kranlyft group which is now a subsidiary of Metso, which has indicated that the crane business is not a core activity for it.) Ainscough has found life hard work after taking over GWS. It has cleared out a lot of equipment and retrenched back to its core business of crane hire after a mis-timed effort in the access business. The other ‘big two’ mobile crane hire companies are also living in interesting times. Hewden Stuart is still getting used to life being part of Caterpillar distributor Finning and Baldwins has been having a torrid time, reflected in the collapse in its share price. In 1999 and 2000, fuelled by talk of conquering the Americas, the Baldwins share price rose from around 150p to higher than 450p. Since then it has tumbled down spectacularly and last month hit its all-time low of 16.5p.

Strangely, the problems seem to be only in the mobile crane hire sector. Tower and crawler hire companies seem to be doing well. Select Tower Cranes, in particular, has been enjoying tremendous fleet growth. Crawler hire specialists such as Weldex, BPH, and AGD are also being kept busy as the market here is also proving to be reasonably healthy. As contractors move more and more towards renting rather than directly owning equipment, few are prepared to rent mechanical machines. The hire companies have therefore been spending. Nearly 40 new crawler cranes were sold in the UK last year, the highest number for some years.

At SED Kobelco will display two crawler cranes: the 80t CKE 800 with 45.7m of boom and the 180t CKE 1800 with 54.0m of boom and 51.8m of luffing jib. Both cranes already have been sold, with the CKE 800 going to Q Plant Hire of Manchester, UK (which already operates Kobelco BM 700C and BM 500C models) and the CKE 1800 is going to Tampereen Nostopalvelu Oy in Finland. The CKE 1800 is the successor to the 7150 which, with more than 400 units sold, is the world’s best selling 150 tonner, Kobelco claims.

A new 70t Sumitomo crawler crane will be exhibited by the Japanese company’s distributor NRC Plant. The SC700-5, from the Pax range, features a new hydraulically assisted brake system to reduce operator fatigue during grab operations. Conventional automatic brake mode can be selected for normal lifting operations.

Fitted to the SC700-5 is the Wylie W3200 rated capacity limiter. It includes an integrated slew restriction system, enabling the operator to programme prohibited zones into the system. This system has been developed by Sumitomo and Wylie together, and according to NRC it is the only ‘manufacturer approved’ slew restriction system for crawler cranes.

Sennebogen’s distributor EH Hassell & Sons is showing two crawlers and a truck crane. The crawlers are the 50t lattice boom 640HD and the 40t telescopic 630R-HD. Both will be shown with cabs that can elevate up to 2.4m hydraulically. Manchester-based civil engineering contractor Byzak recently bought a 640HD and two 630R-HDs, all with the elevating cab option to aid visibility down shafts when supporting tunnelling work.

The fourth Sennebogen crane at SED will be an HPC 40, the 40t-rated telescopic truck crane launched at Bauma last year. This unit, mounted on a Scania truck, will go back to Byzak after the show to work at a water treatment works.

Reflecting its recent push on crawler cranes in the UK, Liebherr will be exhibiting an LR 1100, a 100t rated crawler. It will be shown fully rigged with main lattice boom.

Liebherr will also show the MK 80 self-erecting tower crane mounted on a four-axle all terrain carrier. This crane has a maximum hook height of 28m, lifts 1.7t at the end of its 42m jib, and has a maximum lift capacity of 8t.

A larger truck-mounted tower crane is being shown by Spierings Kranen of the Netherlands. The SK 598 has a five-axle all terrain carrier, is rated at 103tm, has a 48m jib and a 53m maximum hook height. It is being shown in the colours of City Lifting which has pioneered application of the concept in the UK.

From its all terrain range, Liebherr will show the new 250t-rated LTM 1250/1, the LTM 1200/1 (200t), and the LTM 1055/1 (55t), LTM 1045 (50t) and LTM 1030/2 (35t-40t). Liebherr describes its UK order book as ‘healthy’ although it expects the total market to be lower than in 2001. Liebherr expects the LTM 1055/1 to be its best seller in the UK this year.

Liebherr Great Britain recently took on responsibility for sales, spares and service for harbour mobile cranes in the UK and Ireland. To represent this new involvement, the company will display a scale model of the LHM 250 crane at the front of the group stand.

Previously represented by its UK distributor European Cranes, which it took over last year, Terex will be showing cranes in its own right at SED for the first time this year. From the PPM all terrain range, the ATT 400/3 (35t) and ATT 600/2 (50t) will be shown.

Another company with new faces representing it is Tadano Faun which parted company with its distributor Marubeni Komatsu last year and is now represented by a new company Cranes UK Ltd, headed by Joe Lyon. Operating since January this year, Cranes UK already claims six sales, four will be on show at SED. The biggest of these is the 80t class ATF 80-4 all terrain, seen for the first time with the ’tiltable cockpit’ that was seen at Bauma on the prototype ATF 200-6 (ATF 230-6 as it is now called, and rated at 230t). With this, it is not the whole cab that tilts, but just the seat and control module inside it. The response to the concept has encouraged Faun to extend it to the 80 tonner.

Cranes UK/Tadano Faun will also show an ATF 45-3, a 45t AT launched last year at Bauma, and a pair of 60t class ATF 60-4s.

The knuckle boom community, despite its run in with the Health & Safety Executive (see The interlock debate, last month’s issue), is still a relatively buoyant sector of the crane industry in the UK, especially at the larger end, where big truck loaders are gradually being seen as an alternative to a traditional mobile.

‘This growth in very heavy duty truck loaders represents a small but growing specialist sector of the market,’ says Fassi (UK) managing director John Carter. ‘Over the last 18 months we have supplied a number of loaders of ever-increasing capacity for this purpose. The latest is a Fassi F1000 crane, which is almost certainly the first genuine 100tm rated truck loader to be seen in the UK,’ he reckons.

This crane has just entered service with Yorkshire-based J Exley & Sons and was supplied and fitted by Herbert Pool of Leeds. Fassi makes the point that adapting road vehicles to handle loads of this capacity demands a degree of specialist engineering, as much in the design of the parent vehicle as in the loader itself. The Exley crane is rear-mounted on an Andover trailer that has been purpose-designed to handle 100 tonne loads.

At SED 2002, Fassi is represented by five models in its truck loader range, the largest of which is the F660 XP26 model, rated at 60tm. All models feature Fassi’s new lifting moment limiting device which increases operational safety. Most also incorporate an adjustable electro-hydraulic arc rotation limiting device.

Three of the cranes on display – the F150A, F250 and F660 models – are fitted with extra hydraulically extendible outriggers to provide increased operational stability.

Loader cranes from Cormach and PM are also on show.

Industrial cranes will be represented by Peter Hird & Sons, the distributor for Valla.

SED stalwart Vanson Cranes, the UK agent for Raimondi tower cranes, is launching the self-erecting VCT 25 tower crane with towing system. An MR 183 city crane, with inverter drive controls, will also be exhibited, as will Raimondi’s new rounded style cab.