Milwaukee, Wisconsin 2021-08-02 09:42:54 –
By ELIZABE THKELSE
Dubuque, Iowa (AP) — One of Joe Roller’s favorite parts of work is the concrete progress he can see after the day’s work is complete.
“Starting in the morning, it’s just naive, and by the end of the day you may have finished episode 1 or 2,” he said.
Roller has been working as a crane operator for A-1 Crane Rental & Machinery Moving for the past 13 years. The Dubuque business is one of several local companies that provide crane and lift services to various industries.
According to office manager Karen Hoefler, A-1 Crane Rental owns 11 hydraulic cranes for machines weighing 4.5 to 240 tonnes. You can also access cranes that can lift up to 400 tonnes through our sister company Cedar Rapids’ Tri-State Crane & Rigging Service.
A-1 Crane Rental works with general contractors and businesses in industries ranging from agriculture to energy. At any time, they may lift a heating or cooling system to the rooftop, install trusses for a construction project, or move heavy equipment for a manufacturer.
Roller enjoys the diversity of work.
“It’s something new every day … and you’ll be doing some really cool things,” he told Dubuque Telegraph Herald. “I lifted everything from MRA (Magnetic Resonance Angiography) equipment to statues.”
For Roller, the job starts with getting the information you need from the client. This includes factors such as the condition of the ground and the dangers of sewer tunnels and power lines, as well as the weight of objects, the height and distance they move.
According to Hoefler, each A-1 crane is associated with a “chart book” that helps operators choose the best crane for each task.
“If something is very far, very high, and this much weight, (chart book) will tell you if the crane can pick it up,” she said.
Sometimes the best machine may not be a crane.
“We recently purchased a 40,000-60,000 pound forklift truck used by heavy equipment and manufacturers,” Hoefler said.
Other companies use a variety of machines to lift heavy objects.
Jake Schroeder of Tegeler Wrecker & Crane in Dyersville said the company owns a rotary tow truck that can lift up to 85 tonnes. These machines differ from traditional tow trucks in that the boom can rotate 360 degrees rather than simply move up and down.
“They are made for winches, pulls and lifts,” he said. “For example, the goal is to retrieve a large cicada from a ditch, but the crane is intended to move up and down vertically.”
According to Schroeder, another big difference between cranes and rotary tow trucks is the length of the boom.
“Some of these tow trucks have a boom of about 50 feet, but a regular crane may have a boom of 90 feet or more,” he said.
Once the right machine is selected, operators face another hurdle. It’s about finding the best route to bring the machine to the field.
According to Roller, the largest crane for A-1 crane rental weighs 150,000 pounds. Machines of that size may not be able to cross a particular bridge, and the hills of the area are challenged.
Roller described a recent deforestation operation in which he and his colleagues needed to build a ramp to safely navigate a crane into a customer’s backyard.
“Each pick has a lot of preparatory work, thoughts and geometry to ensure that it goes safely and efficiently,” he said.
When the machine is finally placed in the field, the rollers rely on years of experience and training.
He and his fellow operators of A-1 are accredited through the National Committee for Crane Operator Accreditation. According to Laura, this process involves passing the first general knowledge test, after which the operator can obtain certification for various special cranes. All operators must be recertified every 5 years.
“Not everyone can jump in and do this,” Hoefler said with a laugh.
She added that many citizens are not fully aware of the risks associated with the day-to-day operations of crane operators.
“It’s a very dangerous job,” she said. “… At all weights, if someone turns them off (calculations), it can be very dangerous as long as the crane falls.”
She said A-1 Crane Rental inspects the crane “daily, monthly, yearly” to ensure operator safety.
The dangerous nature of his work is by no means far from Roller’s heart.
“I’m not going to lie. The day when I’m not nervous around the crane is the day I stop driving the crane,” he said. “You take everything you can into consideration and move forward as safely as possible, but (but) some of them are a little nervous.”
But in the end, he enjoys the opportunity to contribute to his work, especially the community in which he grew up. As a graduate of Hempstead High School, he said it was particularly meaningful to help build new gyms, pools and roofs during a recent renovation at his alma mater.
He also appreciates the opportunity to work with workers in related industries, including Cedar Valley Steel, one of A-1 Crane Rental’s other sister companies.
“It’s hard to work with guys and gals in the industry,” he said. “… We are proud to build America and enjoy it.”