Shannahan Crane & Hoist

Here’s Your Essential Guide to Becoming a Bridge Crane Operator

Heavy machinery operators are in high demand. One type of machinery you may not have considered is a bridge crane. Becoming a bridge crane operator gives you a competitive salary and interesting work.

Learn more about what it takes to become an overhead crane operator and how to get started.

What Is a Bridge Crane?

A bridge crane is a type of overhead crane. Unlike traditional cranes that have a long boom, bridge cranes slide along fixed rails.

Several types of bridge cranes are commonly in use. You’ll need to be familiar with all of them as a bridge crane operator.

Bridge Crane Configurations

Bridge cranes have four main configurations:

  • Double-girder top-running crane
  • Double-girder underhung crane
  • Single-girder top-running crane
  • Single-girder underhung crane

A double-girder bridge crane has two bridge girders. In a top-running crane, the system moves above the runway. On an underhung crane, the bridge runs under the runway rail.

Single-girder overhead cranes are similar to double-girder cranes. They can be top running or underhung. However, they only have one girder.

Manual vs Motorized

Bridge cranes can be manual (push/pull) or motorized. The lifting capacity and the length of travel usually determine whether a system is manual or motorized.

Cab Control, Ground Control, or Remote Control

On a motorized overhead crane, the controls let you direct the movement of the crane and the hoist. You may need one or more methods for controlling an overhead crane. The operator either controls the crane from a cab attached to the crane or from the floor.

A cab control system uses an enclosed or exposed cab attached to the crane. The operator has one or two co-workers on the ground who help guide and position the load.

In a ground control system, the operator controls the crane using a push button pendant attached to the crane.

An operator on the floor may use a wireless remote control to direct the crane. Using a radio control means the operator isn’t tied to the crane itself like with cab or pendant controls.

Work Environment for a Bridge Crane Operator

Bridge cranes have applications in many industries including:

  • Automotive
  • Food and beverage
  • Chemicals
  • Commercial printing
  • Manufacturing
  • Paper
  • Steel
  • Warehousing and distribution

The work environment is often indoors in a facility like a warehouse or manufacturing plant.

Overhead cranes are ideal for various types of tasks. For example, they can move large, heavy items to and from warehouse dock areas. They can transport bulky or heavy items to and from storage locations.

Bridge cranes can move large products through the assembly process. They can load products onto trailers or train cars.

Education and Training Requirements for a Bridge Crane Operator

Laws requiring licenses for crane operators usually don’t apply to bridge cranes. Becoming an overhead crane operator doesn’t have specific education requirements, either. Education in heavy machinery operation from a trade school can help prepare you, though.

Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) standards address crane operators. The standards require that overhead crane operators have the knowledge and experience to perform their jobs safely.

OSHA Standard 1910.179 and ASME B30.2 cover overhead cranes. According to OSHA standards, an employer must only allow personnel who are qualified to perform the job to operate the crane.

Overhead crane operators must have received training and passed an evaluation from a competent instructor. They must be able to explain and apply safety and operating procedures. They must also know the proper hand signals and be able to make precision lifts.

Some states may have more specific requirements.

Certification for Bridge Crane Operators

An overhead crane operator certification makes you more competitive in the job market. It demonstrates to potential employers that you’re qualified to start the job right away.

NCCCO Certification

One of the most widely-recognized certifications is from the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO). To be eligible for certification, you must be at least 18 years old and comply with the NCCCO substance abuse policy.

You need to pass a written exam and a practical exam.

The written exam has 60 multiple-choice questions. You have an hour to finish it. The exam is available in paper/pencil or computer-based format.

The practical exam demonstrates your proficiency in operating a bridge crane. You can take the exam for cab-operated or pendant/remote control operated cranes.

Passing both exams gives you a certification that is valid for five years.

Crane Operator Certificates

You can find many online and in-person training courses for bridge crane operators. They may give you a certificate of completion. These certificates aren’t the same as certifications, though.

Training courses are a way to prepare to pass a certification exam like the NCCCO exam. Before investing your time or money, verify that the program follows OSHA/ASME guidelines. You can be more confident the course will prepare you to earn certification.

Necessary Skills for an Overhead Crane Operator

Crane operators need many different skills to do their jobs well. Technical skills include manual dexterity to operate the crane controls smoothly and accurately.

Good hand-eye coordination is also essential. It lets you visualize what the crane needs to do. You can then use the control system to transfer the load properly.

Good attention to detail is a critical soft skill for a crane operator. It helps you work more safely and precisely.

You need good verbal communication skills to speak effectively with the rest of your team. You also need to think critically. You need to analyze situations and take the right safety measures.

Bridge Crane Operator Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) gives crane operators an average annual salary of $65,270. However, BLS combines all crane operators.

Different salary aggregate websites give different estimates for a bridge crane operator’s salary. Estimates range from around $33,000 to $62,600. Your salary will depend on factors including:

  • Experience
  • Skills
  • Location

Bridge crane operators are in demand and can earn competitive wages.

Work with the Best from Shannahan Crane and Hoist

Becoming a bridge crane operator could be the right career move for you. Operators need training and experience, which you can earn through OSHA-compliant courses. Certification demonstrates you’re ready for the job.

Shannahan Crane and Hoist is your partner for overhead crane operations. We provide complete factory-authorized training for your cranes and accessories. We also offer safety classes.

Contact us today for more information about our bridge crane solutions.

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