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Crane vs. Boom Truck: Pros and Cons for Building or Tearing Down a Grain Bin

Joy worked in construction for 7 years alongside her husband (25+ yrs. experience)—working on pole barns, grain bins, and barn repairs.

An Experienced Boom Truck

This boom truck belonged to a friend, and was our work partner for several years. It helped move, tear down and set up many grain bins.

This boom truck belonged to a friend, and was our work partner for several years. It helped move, tear down and set up many grain bins.

About Boom Trucks

Boom trucks have their own weight limits and boom extensions at different angles listed on them. Don't count on any two trucks being the same.

Plan on lifting the bin as much as possible with the boom extended straight behind the truck, or at only the slightest of angles. To do otherwise, even with outriggers fully extended, is to shake hands with disaster. Sometimes it can be done, but don't count on it.

If you get really close to your bins, you can lift them with a 60-foot boom. But again, play it safe. Dumping over a boomtruck is no fun.

This means you will need to walk the bin site carefully and plan your approach. Don't leave unecessary equipment or trash in the way.

Not all boom trucks are capable of safely lifting a grain bin, especially more than a few feet. If in doubt, hire a crane or use grain bin jacks for building and disassembly.

Is the Roof Weak or Damaged?

You can avoid using either a boom truck or crane by using grain bin jacks.

This is best if you have any doubt as to whether the bin roof can handle lifting the rest of the wall weight. If possible, rent 6 grain bin jacks for even a small bin. This is safer than a crane anyway, as a 10 m.p.h. wind won't bother you with jacks. However, using a boom truck with the same amount of wind can result in the bin being a kite. It would be easy to lose a foot, etc. if the bin starts swinging.

Partial Disassembly Method

Below we outline a way to tear down and move a bin without taking the roof to bits. This may not work with all jack types. A-frame jacks generally allow you to use this procedure.

This method must be used with SMALL BINS ONLY:

Use grain bin jacks as stated in the previous paragraph. If possible, use one per wall sheet for most of the tear-down, unless they are rated for very heavy loads. MANY ARE NOT.

For doing a partial tear-down on a small or medium-small bin, use six grain bin jacks on your last ring dismantle. Dismantle most of the rings, until you have the roof attached to one to three rings, depending on the total height of your bin. Plan for safe hauling, taking into account highline wires and other obstructions. (The jacks must be able to lift the bin above the height of the trailer on which it will sit.)

Disassemble the last ring which must be torn down, then remove all but four jacks, so you have a space either side-to-side or front-to-back. Back the trailer under the bin into this space, then lower the remaining jacks.

Remember, the fewer jacks you have, the less safe the procedure will be. Keep the bin level at all times when using only four jacks. Normally people use one jack per sheet when going up or down with a bin. Four jacks would be sufficient for a small bin if you use common sense and keep it level. (Small means 18-foot diameter or less.)

We choose to use a boom truck most often because less labour is involved, and we have experienced help. Jacks are more work, but in theory are safer.

Partial Tear Down Demonstration

About Cranes

Cranes have several of the same features and abilities as boom trucks, but in general have more stability and freedom of motion. A crane is generally the easiest, safest way to lift a grain bin, with a boom truck being the second choice.

A crane has a wider range of secure motion, and usually can accomplish tasks with fewer risks and adjustments. The center of gravity is somewhat different.

Still, talk to the operator about what you want to accomplish, and see what he recommends.

Operator Safety

Whichever option you have available, the operator must understand the risks and wind influences on a heavy, hollow structure. Also he must take all available precautions to ensure his truck or crane is stable and in good working order. Leaky hydraulics can be a real menace with a task this delicate. Be sure all outriggers, as well as the boom, are stable and operating correctly.

Don't employ an operator who is careless or known for taking undue risks.

Demonstration of a Crane Moving a 7-Ring Grain Bin

Job Talks--Mobile Crane Operator Perspective

Job Profile: Corey--Boom Truck Operator

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2020 Joilene Rasmussen

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