Government urged to apply HGV regulation to mobile cranes

A senior figure in the crane industry has called for mobile cranes to be subject to the same regulations and licensing as HGVs.

Peter Gibbs, who chairs the Construction Plant-hire Association’s mobile crane interest group, told Construction News that he believes the machinery should be subject to oversight from traffic commissioners, in the interests of safety.

Traffic commissioners regulate the operators of HGVs and some other types of vehicles. They have the ability to remove their licences for issues including not being roadworthy.

Gibbs, who is also chief executive of Ainscough Crane Hire, said: “Why is it that mobile cranes are treated like plant and exempt from the legislation that applies to HGVs, when typically a mobile crane is designed to travel on the highway, and typically does multiple times a week?”

He added that given the machines’ weight and complexity and the high risk they pose, they should be treated like other commercial equipment that ravels on roads.

“I strongly believe that this would enhance the safety of the mobile crane sector and would ensure our sensible best-practice standards were adopted across the sector, ultimately improving safety for our operators, customers and the wider public,” he said.

Gibbs noted that there are only around 5,000 mobile cranes in the UK, so the probability of them being caught up in an incident is low, but said: “The impact of a mobile crane involved in an incident is likely to be very high”.

One publicised incident took place in December 2019, when a mobile crane crashed on the M25 in Essex, smashing through the central reservation barrier, ending up overturned on the opposite side of the road on which it had been driving.

The central reservation needed to be repaired and the road had to be resurfaced. No one was seriously injured.

There is no suggestion that the vehicle was not roadworthy, but Gibbs said it was as an example of the damage that such a crash could cause.

The Construction Plant-hire Association has designed a good-practice guide for mobile crane operations, which Gibbs hopes will build engagement with the high standards that would comply with HGV standards of operation.

“It is a major step in pulling together all the legal and best-practice aspects of mobile crane operations,” he said. “This guide should not be treated simply as best-practice guidance but should be seen as the minimum safe-operating standard, and I would advocate to our customers that adherence with this document will ensure that they get safe, effective, compliant operations.

“The guide should, in my view, sit on the desk of all procurement and site project-managers.”

The Department for Transport has been contacted for comment.

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