Two crane operators who posted error-free performances at the regional qualifying competition held recently near Chicago, Ill., have advanced to the national championship of the Crane Operator Rodeo in Davenport, Fla., on Oct. 27-28.
Jason George, an operator for CG Enterprises, South Milwaukee, Wis., and John T. Rickert, safety coordinator for IUOE Local 150 from Wilmington, Ill., both posted error-free runs during the regional competition held Sept. 15 at the IUOE 150 training facility in Wilmington. George earned first place by posting a quicker completion time.
In a spirited but friendly competition, George and Rickert topped a field of 13 contestants whose experience running cranes ranged from one year to more than 45. Qualifying for the national rodeo finals earned each of them paid travel and lodging to Orlando to compete with up to 13 other regional winners for the national title. The rodeo finals competition will be held at Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers’ facility in the Orlando area.
At the regional qualifier in Wilmington, each competitor ran a 30-ton capacity Tadano GR-300XL hydraulic rough-terrain crane with its four-section boom telescoped to a 70-foot length. Competitors had to perform a timed three-segment test that included lowering the headache ball into a barrel, maneuvering a water-filled barrel through a prescribed slalom course, and lifting and flipping a concrete-filled pipe end-for-end within a prescribed area. Points were added for errors, and the operator with the combination of the fewest error points and shortest time won.
Top qualifier Jason George has 16 years of experience in the seat. He operates equipment ranging from 5-ton boom trucks to a 110-ton truck crane in the family crane-rental business CG Enterprises, owned by his father. George credits the variety of work he sees daily with helping develop his high level of skill.
Second-place qualifier John Rickert has more than 45 years of operating experience, including several years of operating tower cranes at heights to 900 feet, putting up high-rise buildings that help form the Chicago skyline. For the past six years, he has been Local 150’s safety coordinator, not working as an operator.
Contestants’ entry fees were donated to the IUOE Local 150 food pantry. The competition site, crane, and setup were donated by IUOE Local 150. The competition tests and course were designed by Crane Institute Certification, Sanford, Fla.
On-site judges James Headley and Randy Spaulding, as well as scorekeeper Susan Headley, all came from Crane Institute of America, also of Sanford.
Top finishers George and Rickert will join up to 13 other qualifying operators from other regional contests held in Syracuse, N.Y., Houston, Texas, Phoenix, Ariz., and Orlando, Fla. for the finals competition. In addition to the national title, the winner of the national championship showdown will earn $1,000 cash, a one-of-a-kind hand-tooled belt buckle, a one-of-a-kind leather bomber jacket, a die-cast crane model, and VIP treatment and the next ConExpo trade show.