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Technology

Lifting profits: how to keep crane operating costs down

Whether you work in construction, mining or hire, operating heavy-mobile cranes is a costly endeavour, due to the difficulty in tracking a crane’s whereabouts, engine hours and upkeep. This is why cranes of all shapes and sizes require constant supervision, ongoing maintenance and continual operation to remain a profitable part of a business. By Jim French, Australasian Construction Solutions Specialist, Teletrac Navman

Using technology, it’s now easier than ever to stay in the know, make more effective business decisions and maintain a safe work environment. In particular, telematics, or fleet management technology, can benefit your business by keeping track of your cranes, helping with compliance, efficiency and boosting profits.

More efficient utilisation

Getting the most out of your cranes is essential for projects to be successful and turn a decent profit. Without visibility into how they’re used, you won’t know the result of your project until it’s too late to make any necessary changes, such as reduce fuel intake or redefine the budget to the client.

By collecting data about how your cranes are being used, it can be compared with data from previous projects, allowing you to spot trends early on and plan future work. Ignition and idle reports help to reduce unnecessary fuel burn, which keeps costs down and allows the crane’s engine to remain healthier for longer.

Assistance with upkeep and maintenance

Considering that a mobile crane is used for both on and off the road, keeping it operational in a competitive market is essential. Not only do you want to send out cranes that are in tip top shape, you also want to ensure they’re up for the task at hand.

Harsh usage of the boom, exhausting the motor, excessive idling, driving across harsh terrain, ignoring obvious signs of wear and tear or skipping maintenance can all contribute to breakdowns. This is not only a safety risk, but also be a hefty cost to your business.

Keeping on top of your preventative maintenance will help ensure nothing is overlooked and becomes a potential risk. With telematics, you can automatically track the condition of your cranes with ease and never be blindsided by the unexpected. The technology collects data on engine hours, fuel usage and more.

While the odometer value of a typical crane isn’t very high, the engine hours on the motor can be. If the crane’s engine temperature is running hot, or exceeds a certain number of engine hours, technology means you can now automatically receive a reminder to schedule a service, order parts, or perform routine checks.

A better fuel tax rebate

While many crane operators know about fuel tax credit (FTC) rebates, it’s unlikely that you’re claiming everything you’re entitled to. Many opt for the safe harbour approach of claiming only for the on-road usage.

Determining the difference between on and off-road operations is difficult without technology. Using GPS tracking and detailed data it provides, operators can calculate for all road work.

It’s possible to determine times the engine was used to operate the crane, giving you all the ability to claim the maximum rebate available for that equipment. You can accurately assign fuel use to the correct part of any operation, reducing overall fuel costs in your business.

Ease with compliance

When cranes are not properly monitored, they can pose a huge risk to everyone on-site. Especially as the average work site has many different vehicles, equipment and staff operating and crossing paths constantly. To minimise risk, it’s important to know your cranes are complying with various laws and regulations, such as workplace health and safety and Chain of Responsibility laws.

Compliance is a simpler process with technology. Not only does real-time location data from telematics allow site managers to know exactly where cranes are, it also makes flagging compliance issues easy by keeping all relevant forms and permits in a single, digital platform.

With a pre-trip checklist, operators can assess the condition of a crane at the start of every job, while completing forms electronically helps to automate and reduce paperwork. Operators simply bring up the relevant checklist or form from their in-cabin device and flag any issues if they are discovered. These are sent back to the office instantly so appropriate action can be taken.

Real-time knowledge

Knowing where your cranes are and what they’re doing is critical for both operational and financial purposes.

GPS fleet tracking gives those on and off-site detailed information about what the crane is doing, such as when it arrived, the amount of time spent on-site, total hours worked, and the distance travelled to and from the site. This data helps businesses keep track of their cranes in real-time, allowing for accurate planning of dispatch to the next job.

The data from the cranes can be downloaded into easy-to-read reports, which can be used as part of the invoicing process and proof of attendance on a job site.

Getting on with the job

There are some roads and bridges that aren’t accessible for some mobile cranes. Narrow streets, winding corners or heavily congested roads are all things to consider when planning routes, as well as the many permits drivers need to abide by to stay safe. This makes reaching job sites or clients difficult as you end up taking massive detours to remain compliant.

In states that operate an Intelligence Access Program (NSW, Queensland and Victoria), telematics gives you access to a road network that would otherwise be off-limits. The in-vehicle technology helps generate suitable routes and turn-by-turn navigation for drivers to confidently follow and minimise the risk of breaching regulations.

Cranes are essential to the success of construction, engineering and resources projects across Australia. By better using technology, crane owners and operators can get easy access to the tools and information needed to maximise efficiency and increase revenues.

By collecting and analysing how and where they’re being used, you can leave the guesswork behind and make decisions that benefit your business in the long-term.