Articulated loader cranes only used to lift loads carried on the back of a truck to the ground. But loaders have become larger, and longer, and it is now possible to not only move the same load, but also lift it on to the second or third storey of a building.

The combination of haul plus lift has proved successful for Norwegian crane rental company Vest Kran, which runs nine lorry loaders with 58tm and 85tm Effer loader cranes. The lorry loaders carry construction supplies such as concrete shutters to job sites.

“We go to the storage area, pick up equipment, drive to where it is going to be installed, and lift it into the installation. We don’t need a crane. Before we had a trailer and mobile crane, now we can do both things with the crane lorry,” says Vest Kran planning and marketing manager Morten Martinessen. Its lorries can carry loads of between 7-12t.

The appeal is felt in the UK as well, says Jon Bennett, managing director of Isle of Man, UK-based B&C Transport. “A lot of building construction companies have Portakabins on site. With truck mounted cranes, they turn up on site with the crane on a three- or four- axle rigid vehicle, load the cabin on to it, job done. In the old days, an articulated flat-deck truck and crane would come, the crane would have to set up, load the cabin, and follow the truck to the next jobsite for unloading.”

Asked if lorry loaders are starting to do the fast turnaround work, so-called taxi crane duty, that is the bread and butter of truck cranes, Paul Clancy of UK firm Emerson Crane Hire agrees. “Of course they are. They have adopted functions of the smaller mobile cranes.”

Martinessen of Vest Kran adds that a lorry loader crane driver has a different role than a mobile crane driver. “With a mobile crane, the person always sits inside the crane. With a lorry loader, they are outside helping.” Because its cranes are radio remote-controlled, the operator is free to climb down from the truck and help move the load.

“The driver is more involved in the work as he operates the crane with a remote control. He also build good relations with customers as he is working outside,” he adds.

The company’s biggest Effers have a total length of 40m. Reach is important, Martinessen adds. “A crane with a long boom or a jib can stand on a building site and lift like a mobile crane.”

Vest Kran also runs 45 mobile cranes in its fleet. Partly because mobile crane rates have been driven down by fierce competition, lorry loaders earn a better rate: NOK850 (EUR107) compared with NOK600 (EUR76) per hour. Although it is currently buying 50t mobile cranes, by 2010 it will not buy mobile cranes less than 80t capacity. “We must follow the market. Crane lorries are getting bigger and stronger.”

The Bergen-based firm buys Italian cranes rather than Scandinavian competing manufacturers Hiab and HMF because of its preference for truck body manufacturer Volvo, which uses Effer exclusively, he says. It buys the lorries from a Bergen Volvo dealer.