Walking the walk

24 March 2022

CEO Joel Dandrea, CEO of SC&RA, shares his vision for the future of the Association with Cranes Today. Mike Chalmers reports.

The Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association (SC&RA) is an international trade association of more than 1,300 members from 46 nations. Members are involved in crane and rigging operations, specialized transportation, machinery moving and erecting, industrial maintenance, millwrighting, concrete pumping, manufacturing and rental.

The organization works to help its members run more efficient and safer businesses by monitoring and affecting pending legislation and regulatory policies at the state and national levels, and researching and reporting on safety concerns and best business practices.

Entering his 21st year at the helm of SC&RA, CEO Joel Dandrea looks forward to the business of cranes in North America and beyond as economies shift, workforces evolve and the industry continues to both expand and adapt to the various markets it works within. Dandrea recently sat down for an interview with Cranes Today and shared the vision for SC&RA as it approaches its 75th anniversary next year – while also articulating the Association’s ongoing commitment to serving members both domestically and abroad.

Chalmers: How would you say SC&RA has navigated the challenges of the past two years?
Like so many other organizations around the U.S. and the world, the past two years have proven to be some of our most challenging. But one of our greatest achievements as an association, in our view, was ensuring that our members could continue to work as the pandemic was unleashed.

Chalmers: Early on, the lockdowns threatened construction significantly – how was SC&RA able to get out in front of this challenge?
Indeed, we realized how critical the lockdowns would be to our industry, so our priority in early 2020 was petitioning the Department of Homeland Security to designate the U.S. crane, rigging and specialized transportation industry, and its workers, as Essential Critical Infrastructure. Literally, within a week, we received confirmation of our essential designation – which enabled our industry to remain open for business and continue servicing essential elements of our economy.

Chalmers: It’s not uncommon for Associations across myriad industries to speak about value and advocacy, but this was an undeniable example of walking the walk.
Exactly. In times of crises, belonging to a group that has your interests in mind is priceless. At the heart of everything we do here is delivering value. Our activities and products must provide value to our members and help them operate safely and more efficiently. The fact that we’re at nearly 92 percent with our membership retention rate, given everything that’s going on in the world right now, is very indicative of the value SC&RA members believe that we bring to them.

Chalmers: Given the complexities within the last two years, how has your ability to interface with the full breadth of your membership been impacted?
Well, that’s the reality we’ve been dealing with for quite a bit during the pandemic. While SC&RA is located in the U.S., we do have members all across the world. Pre-COVID, we’d see international members both attending and exhibiting at our yearly events. However, in the past two years, most of our international members have attended from primarily Canada, Mexico, Peru and Germany. In that regard, it hasn’t always been easy connecting with certain members around the world.

At the end of the day, our members do business in person – it’s one of the reasons our events like the Crane & Rigging Workshop, Annual Conference and the Specialized Transportation Symposium are so well attended. With networking opportunities and exhibit centers, attending is an economical way to see all of your customers and meet potential customers. But I understand for most companies, traveling across the world isn’t always in the budget.

Chalmers: That said, these days, there are alternatives to traveling.
That’s true. In fact, the exchange of information happens so fast these days that we are all struggling to balance the emails and texts we receive both during work and personally. Members, whether in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Far East and beyond, can share in the exchange of information. Collectively, we face many similar challenges in the crane industry. Through our newsletter, website and SC&RA app, we strive to communicate what’s happening in Washington, D.C., from an infrastructure perspective. How will that impact our members? How will that impact a company wishing to do more business in the U.S.? How can what’s happening here be replicated elsewhere? The exchange of information is extremely important.

Chalmers: Building off of that notion, SC&RA is a member of the International Crane Stakeholders Assembly (ICSA). Can you elaborate on your work with ICSA and what’s currently in play?
For sure – we’re proud to work collectively with ICSA on a number of issues. The group has recently released guidance on Mobile Crane Ground Preparation for Wind Farm Construction, which is available to our members through our website or mobile app. Additionally, work continues on guidance for working with mobile cranes on floating barges. It’s a testament to our international association peers that work is moving along in these areas despite the global pandemic.

Chalmers: On the domestic side, permitting has come up quite a bit within the U.S. crane space. How is SC&RA involved in this capacity?
We’ve begun the process of asking state permit officials crane-specific questions, which will be included in future Permit Manual updates.

We’re also researching which states offer a blanket permit specifically for mobile cranes, and we’re very close to including mobile crane weights and permitting into the Association’s overall harmonization efforts.

That said, we also submitted a letter to the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, requesting that they reconsider that proof load tests be based on manufacturers’ load ratings for the conditions of use, while not exceeding 110 percent of the maximum load ratings for the boom on the crane.

Chalmers: Protecting your members from unfair regulations and legal decisions is also a priority for SC&RA. How have you worked to advance this practice within the crane space recently?
Well, one key accomplishment for the Association in 2021 was the Understanding Tower Crane Bare Rental Agreements document, a new tool to help tower crane companies protect themselves against unfair and biased agreements. This guide provides education on what specific terms mean, what clauses companies should be aware of and how they affect a business and its insurance liability.

Chalmers: One benefit of SC&RA membership is that transportation and crane and rigging groups are able to work together on certain issues for the greater good. Can you speak more to that?
Absolutely. A perfect example is ongoing, and began last year. In a continued effort to advocate for mobile crane members, both the SC&RA Crane & Rigging and Transportation Groups worked collaboratively in 2021 to address an increase in crane issues at the state level, which included: improperly taxed operations in South Carolina, super load limits and exorbitant engineering survey requirements in Massachusetts and now, newly required police escorts and nighttime movements in Maryland.

Chalmers: You mentioned the impressive retention rate earlier. What specific value-adds do you think resonate with SC&RA members and keep them coming back?
Ultimately, our members see that, in light of the challenges, we’ve been able to reduce expenses, retain an excellent staff, continue on all of our key advocacy and communication efforts while also focusing on our affinity programs – and even add back in live events. With that in mind, sponsorship commitments have been strong, and participation in awards programs like the Jobs of the Year was as impressive as ever. Simply put, our members understand the big picture and, while not a perfect environment, we’ve all been willing to take some risks to move forward.

Joel Dandrea is entering his 21st year as CEO of SC&RA