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National Skills Competition Names Top Crane Operators

National Skills Competition Names Top Crane Operators
National Skills Competition Names Top Crane Operators
National Skills Competition Names Top Crane Operators
National Skills Competition Names Top Crane Operators

March 12, 2014 - The Crane & Rigging Hot Line & CIC National Skills Championship put the top crane operators in North America through their paces, and the best operators in the country have been named.

Thomas Cunningham of Sims Crane in Orlando, Fla., was named the second runner-up in the competition, and Bruce Gay of Imperial Crane Services in Bridgeview, Ill., took home the first runner-up prize. The National Champion of the event was Kenneth Bowyer of ALL Crane Rental in Apopka, Fla. Prizes for Bowyer included $2,000, a one-of-a-kind hand-tooled Western belt buckle, and a one-of-a-kind leather bomber jacket. Gay received $1,000, a belt buckle, and an award jacket. Cunningham took home $500 and an award jacket. All three received Liebherr crane models.

“The purpose of the crane operator skills competition is to focus on safety, productivity, and efficiency,” said Debbie Dickinson, executive director of Crane Institute Certification. “It simulates the skills required on the jobsite and puts an emphasis on safe operation.” The combination of safety and efficiency equals productivity, she added.


The Championship Recap

In total, 19 operators competed in the finals, including Jesse Pettit of Bragg Crane, the 2012 champion who returned to defend his title, and three Las Vegas regional winners. They operated a 265-ton LTM 1220-5.2 mobile crane through the challenging three-part course, which was modeled after real-life working environments. The crane was provided by Liebherr, the official crane sponsor of the National Skills Championship. It was delivered to Hatton’s Crane & Rigging Inc. in Hayward, Calif., following the event. Other sponsors included Event Partner CIC, Houston International Insurance Group, SlingMaxThe Crosby GroupInfoChipHirschmann, and DICA

Although the skills championship course included the ball drop, barrel slalom, and pipe lift tests, the course and crane differed from the regional events. The crane was much larger than many of those at the regional events, and the boom length was set at 100 ft. rather than 80 ft. Each operator had five minutes to become familiarized with the crane before the championship began.

With the ball drop test, the 17-in. overhaul ball was much larger than the 11- or 12-in. balls used during the regional courses. The barrels also measured 23.5-in. in diameter, so it was a tight fit for the operators to drop the ball into the drum without knocking it over.

The second test was the barrel slalom, which used the same number of drums as the regional events, but the barrels were set up in a different configuration that required the operator to manipulate the barrel through a tight, congested work space, as well as perform three crane functions at once.

The third course, the pipe drop, used a 10-ft. by 6-in. PVC pipe filled with concrete, which was attached to the crane with a 3-ft.-long sling. The pipe was marked with paint 3-ft. from the bottom, and the operator had to pick up the pipe and lower it into the barrel to the 3-ft. mark. "It doesn't take much to knock over the barrel because the pipe is so heavy," said Jay Sturm of Cranes 101, one of the judges of the competition. The pipe then had to be lowered into a coned-off area without disturbing any of the cones. This test demonstrated real-life situations like those in which an operator must accurate place a beam in the correct position.

In addition to the practical test, operators were required to take a rigging quiz, provided by The Crosby Group, and spend six minutes on the Vortex simulator and unload as many objects as they could from a trailer. Crane operation was 80% of the total score, while 10% of the score was based on the results of the rigging quiz and 10% on their simulator score.

CIC and MCM Group, publisher of Crane & Rigging Hot Line and Lift and Access, have committed to continuing the skills competition in 2014. Look for future regional dates on


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