Choosing The Best Side Lifter Crane For Your Container Lifting Needs

Posted on: 20 June 2017


Mobile cranes come in all shapes and sizes, but one of the most useful and widely used variants is the so-called side lifter crane. These cranes resemble an ordinary heavy goods vehicle at first glance, but instead of cargo compartments their trailers sport powerful cranes and loading bays capable of efficienctly lifting and carrying standardised shipping containers.

As you can imagine, a vast array of businesses and industries make good use of these versatile mobile cranes. However, if you wish to add a side lifter crane to your fleet of cranes, you may find yourself confused by the dizzying array of options on offer. Make sure to ask yourself the following questions before hiring or purchasing a side lifter crane, to ensure your new mobile crane is ideally suited for the tasks you have in mind:

Will my side lifter carry both short and long containers?

Most shipping containers are of a standard, 20 foot length, but short containers are also widely used; these containers are about half the length of standard containers (although they retain the same width and height) and are useful for carrying smaller amounts of goods more cheaply and efficiently. If you expect to be handling both short and long container types, make sure that the truck you use has an adjustable loading bay capable of securely carrying both types of container safely.

Will my side lifter carry specialised container types?

Two types of specialised shipping container are also widely used -- tank containers, which consist of pressurised tanks fitted with frames that allow them to be carried like ordinary box containers, and refrigerated containers, often referred to as reefer containers.

Both of these specialised container types are significantly heavier than standard containers, so if your business involves lifting and hauling these substantial containers you will need to ensure your side lifter's crane is capable of handling the extra weight. This generally means choosing a side lifter with a dedicated engine fitted to the trailer component to service the crane. Some side lifter models are capable of powering both the crane and the truck itself from the same engine, but they are less powerful and may not possess the raw power required to lift specialised containers safely.

Will your side lifter be taken off-road?

Since side lifters are very similar in form and dimensions to regular heavy goods vehicles, they are ideal for hauling containers across open roads. However, you may find yourself picking up and dropping off containers in more rural locations where paved roads are not guaranteed; if this applies to you, ensure that your new side lifter is capable of navigating rough terrain safely.

A side lifted fitted out for off-road use will generally feature fatter off-road tyres and a more powerful engine, and should ideally come with 4 wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Off-road capable side lifters should also be fitted with stabilising outriggers, to allow the crane to lift and stow containers safely when working on uneven terrain.