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Southern Crane Adds Star Performer to Its Crane Fleet

Fri November 25, 2011 - Southeast Edition
Eric Olson

Earl Johnson III had to be talked into acquiring a new piece of equipment for his business, but in the end, taking delivery of a sparkling new Link-Belt hydraulic truck crane proved to be a “no-brainer.”

Johnson, the president of Southern Crane in Raleigh, N.C., had another 15 cranes in his fleet and all of them were busy. Still, he was not sure if he could find work for a new 100-ton (90.7 t) crane when he was asked this summer if he would like to buy one.

But Johnson had come to trust the professionals at Pinnacle Cranes, a Charlotte-based dealer. If they thought he could use the Link-Belt’s new 2011 model HTC 86100, he was willing to give it a try.

“Pinnacle Cranes came to me and said that they had a 100-ton available that was sitting in their yard and they would love for me to have an opportunity to buy it,” he remembered. “I told them that I was not sure if we could use another one. We already had some 100-ton cranes in our fleet.”

But Jim Mackinson, Pinnacle’s vice president, and John Dozier, the sales representative working with Johnson, were persistent and ended up making the deal with Johnson.

“When we got the machine, we immediately put it on a building expansion job for Merck in Durham and it worked on that job for three weeks,” Johnson explained. “And from that point forward until today, it has been busy every day.”

Johnson said that the new Link-Belt crane has worked on a variety of projects in the short time he has had it, including toiling on everything from modular house sets to setting cellular phone towers to installing large HVAC units at industrial sites.

“It has just proven to be a wonderful machine for us,” he added.

The all-new HTC-86100 100-ton truck crane has a completely new carrier frame design in 2011 that is both stronger and lighter than the market leading HTC-8690, a 90-ton (81.6 t) machine that it replaces. The added strength is designed to support a 100-ton and the reduced weight provides even better transportability.

“That particular class crane is a very popular machine in the North Carolina-South Carolina marketplace,” added Pinnacle Cranes’ Mackinson. “It is a very roadable crane, it is easy to move and is a market leader in its class.”

Echoing how Johnson has used his new crane, Mackinson describes the HTC 86100 as a very versatile machine and said that a middle-sized crane like the 100-ton Link-Belt is usually “one of the more utilized cranes in a crane rental company’s fleet.”

The HTC 86100 also features the new Link-Belt Pulse total crane operating system, which includes a new boom telescopic extend mode controller (EMC) for the pinning and latching operations. The EMC is a Link-Belt innovation, designed to ensure outstanding service and satisfaction. The crane’s new pinning and latching system is now the standard for Link-Belt cranes with this type of boom extend system — the same system found in Link-Belt’s large rough terrain and truck cranes. These changes also standardize Link-Belt’s product line on one pinning and latching system for one crane operating system.

In addition, the HTC-86100 has a 35 to 140-ft. (10.6 to 42.6 m), five-section, formed boom produced in Link-Belt’s own factory. Teflon wear pucks built into the full contact wear pad surfaces keep the boom lubed without grease. Maximum tip height is 237 ft. (72 m) with the additional two 16-ft. (4.8 m) lattice inserts that can be installed between the boom head and the fly. The onboard tip height is 205 ft. (62 m).

The standard modular style counterweight package of 11,500 lbs. (5,216 kg) gives the crane its great roadability. For highway travel, each of these counterweight packages move easily to control the weight balance between the front and rear axles, which can be controlled entirely from the comfort of the operator’s cab.

Mackinson added that the HTC 86100 has a very operator-friendly computer system with all new state-of-the-art operating aids.

“We have sold a lot of these cranes,” he said, “making for a very successful launch of this new model in 2011.”

Pinnacle Cranes is the Link-Belt authorized dealer for the two Carolinas, one of the Top 5 Link-Belt dealers in the country, Mackinson said. In addition, the company also sells the Shuttlelift brand of industrial hydraulic cranes.

Johnson characterized his firm’s relationship with Mackinson and Dozier at Pinnacle as long and prosperous.

“They have always given us excellent service,” he said. “We have been very pleased by what they have provided us over the years.”

Southern Crane is a division of Southern Industrial Constructors, which was started in 1962 by Johnson’s father, Earl Jr. After beginning with one crane almost 50 years ago, Earl Johnson Jr. built the company into an 850-employee, multi-faceted construction service behemoth.

Earl Johnson III serves as a vice president of Southern Industrial, while running the much smaller crane division since its inception in 2003. Southern Crane primarily works as a support company to its larger, parent firm, but also takes on projects for other firms throughout the Southeast.

Besides its Raleigh location, the 25-employee company also has offices in Charlotte, Wilmington and Columbia, S.C.

So far, Southern Industrial and Southern Crane have thrived during the economic downturn of the last three years, largely by offering services other companies have needed in these lean times in order to stay competitive.

“We have managed to weather the slow economy extremely well considering the consequences in the market and what I mean by that is when a lot of companies were downsizing or consolidating, we were helping them to move their manufacturing equipment from one facility to another or, if they had, say, four facilities and they downsized to two, we helped them make those moves,” Johnson explained. “Right now we have steady work and our backlog looks promising.”

Mackinson described Southern Crane as a company that possesses one of the best reputations among all his customers.

“They have been a good customer for us for many years,” he said. “They have been Link-Belt owners for years and they are one of the proven leaders in the industry.” CEG

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