How to Become a Crane Operator
by Daniel Green
If you ask us, swinging the sticks on a sweet Liebherr 800t all terrain mobile is a damn fine career goal. Imagine lifting a fully loaded Landcruiser 160m up and 35m out! Kinda epic when you do the maths. If you are reading these words though there’s a pretty good chance you’ve got a ways to go yet. Fear not! Over the next few pages we’ll outline in detail the process to become a fully fledged crane operator in Australia.
Until someone figures out how to manufacture more of mother earth, finding more living space is sending construction skywards. This means lifting – and lifting ladies and gents means cranes, their operators, riggers and dogmen.
The way to the apex of the lifting game is by no means easy. Or fast. A great crane operator can make quick decisions on the fly based on decades of experience in all working conditions. Remember – the responsibility for each lift rests squarely upon them. It’s no place for someone new to the game. You have to do your time.
It depends on the size and structure of the company but almost all lifting companies require an HR licence and a dogging ticket as a minimum. Becoming a dogman requires a full week training package that costs around $1500. Once you’ve gotten your HRW licence sporting those magical ‘DG’ letters you’re now legally able to sling loads and direct cranes.
As for getting time in the dogging seat, maybe you work for an awesome company that fosters the multi-skilling of its workforce. Often though you’ll have to sit on the sidelines for a while yet. With luck there’ll be an opportunity coming your way to show what you’ve got. Hang in there!
Fast forward a year or so and you’ve been on the whistle enough to feel at home. Great! Things have been moving well for you. Time to do some more training. Now could be the time to go and get your crane ticket. Technically, you could have got one upon graduating your DG but let’s be honest – slow and steady wins the race. So if you’re serious about sending things skyward, perhaps a better move would be to get your basic rigging ticket. Basic riggers specialise in lifting small plant & equipment, some precast concrete, safety nets & static lines, perimeter safety screens & shutters, and basic steel erection.
Spending a year or so as a rigger will not only build on the skills learnt in your dogging course, it will give you an appreciation of what riggers go through on the job. This may take longer but in the end it will certainly make you a better crane driver.
The next iteration of the rigging trade is the RI ticket. While it’s not mandatory, the skills and knowledge you gain by properly moving up the ladder are priceless. Intermediate Riggers will mostly lift larger structural steel and/or concrete, PAU’s, generators & pumps and other big craneable items. Physically understanding how the other half work will be one of your greatest assets as a crane operator.
Going all the way to Advanced Rigging is commendable, and for some lifting crews – mandatory, due to the nature of their work. However, most stop at the intermediate level. With intermediate rigging mastered, your mind will naturally gravitate to the crane driver’s seat.
It’s time to become a crane operator.
Career crossroads, dead ahead! In Australia, cranes are classified into the following disciplines. Each has their own training package and ticket.
- Bridge and Gantry
- Portal Booms
- Vehicle Loading
- Concrete Booms
- Non-slewing 3t <
- Tower [including self erecting]
Derrick cranes are a bit of an antiquated design and are quite rare these days. They are slowly being replaced by more modern designs.
Bridge and Gantry cranes are popular but often only built in situ on sites such as metal fabrication shops.
Portal Boom cranes are quite popular, especially in shipping and container DC’s. They run along a series of rails moving heavy freight.
Vehicle Loading cranes are smaller truck-mounted cranes such as HIAB’s. These have limited capacity but are extremely agile, performing tasks larger cranes cannot.
Concrete Booms are also vehicle mounted, though their role is to be the conduit between the agi and the pour. The reason for their classification as a crane is because they are subject to forces like a crane more than any other type of machine.
Non-slewing cranes under 3t. These are essentially Telehandlers. The boom is fixed, so there is less load movement to calculate. They are a good entry level ticket on the pathway to slewing cranes.
Slewing cranes are mobile cranes in which the boom can turn independent of the truck body. They come in lifting capacities of 20t, 60t, 100t and open.
Tower cranes are permanent or semi-permanent fixtures that once installed can only slew, jib and lift. One variety of these builds itself as opposed to needing to be assembled. That’s the self-erecting tower crane.
Slewing cranes draw the most from the lifting manpower pool. They also have the most stages to get to the top with other disciplines needing only one ticket. So let’s focus on that!
Far from just a winning move in the original Karate Kid movie, the crane is likely the most valuable piece of equipment a lifting company owns. And with the cost of a new Liebherr 800 tonner reaching north of $8m AUD, you can bet they’re only going to put that beautiful machine in the hands of the safest, most experienced operator they have. Which means climbing the rungs again – except this time those rungs are sections of telescoping boom.
The baby step up the boom is the CN ticket. It’s a four day course that will allow you to operate a non-slewing crane greater than 3 tonnes. A slewing crane has far more risk attached – hence the humble non-slewing beginnings. CN vehicles include Franna’s and large Telehandlers, both of which are small enough to do your time yet big enough to still get yourself into trouble.
Half of Semtex
Next up is the C2 ticket. This means you can operate a slewing crane with a lifting capacity up to twenty tonnes. Still a heck of a lot of responsibility. Some will argue that a Franna doesn’t count and that a C2 with it’s outriggers and slewing capability is the first real crane in the lineup. Training runs for a week and costs about $1500.
About mid way up this telescoping boom to crane operator dreams is the C6. If you’ve been paying attention it means that you can operate any slewing crane with a lifting capacity up to sixty tonnes. Think about that for a moment. Sixty one tonne concrete blocks. At once. Or thirty Holden Commodores. Even one fully loaded US Army main battle tank. Interesting to note that the eligibility for every crane ticket up to and including C6 is only the humble dogging ticket. Training runs for a week and costs about $1500.
100 Not Out
The necessity for lifting objects greater than 60t tapers off, so C1 drivers are thinner on the ground. The prerequisites here are DG, C6 and two years industry experience as a crane operator. Fair play though, lifting up to 100 tonnes in a single lift will certainly make the blood pressure rise though. This course runs for five full days and costs about $2k.
0 doesn’t mean zero, it mean O for Open. Once ticketed you can operate any crane in the land. You can drive that 800t Liebherr! Nice!
For more information on crane classes visit Safe Work.