Crane Driver - a different view on the world

Article Detail

Wednesday 26 August 2009
Sarah Eades

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What is your name?
Charlie

What is your job?
I drive the large crane being used for the Auckland Art Gallery building project.

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How long have you been a crane driver?
7 years

How did you become a crane driver?
Whilst I was in Australia, I did a crane driving ticket which took a week. In NZ you do 16 units which are NZQA. I’m not sure how long it takes. When you get your ticket you work on the ground first, this job is known as the Dogman. The Dogman uses hand signals to the driver as well as a 2-way radio to communicate with the crane driver above. The Dogman also ties the loads and ensures all is safe before lifting.

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Are there any restrictions for being a crane driver?
No. If you can climb the crane and fit in the cab then you’re alright.

What is the age of retirement for a crane driver?
No age limit. I know a guy who is in his sixties and still climbing and driving cranes.

Where are your toilet facilities in the cab?
There are basic facilities in the crane cab but if you need a no.2 then you have to climb down! There is liquid sanitiser in the crane.

How many days of the week do you work on average?
Six days

How many hours of the week do you work on average?
55 hours

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What is the name of the crane and who named it?
The gallery crane is a 355 Liebherr model crane, with a maximum carry load of 16Tonne.

The crane is affectionately called King Curtis and named by a local crane enthusiast

What is it like to drive the crane?
It is rewarding to see the results at completion.

What has been a highlight for you on this project?
Lifting in a 16Tonne panel for the lift pit.

What’s it like climbing the crane and how long does it take you?
If I am in a hurry I could climb it in 3 minutes and I know how fire fighters feel when they have to climb

How do you communicate with the rest of your crew on the ground?
Two way radio and hand signals.

Does the crane rock when you are up in the crane cab?
Yes.

What is the highest crane height you have been in?
150m

Describe the view? What can you see?
Albert Park, Wharf crane, bit of the ocean and it’s not unusual to see naked people walking around in their apartments!

What is up in the crane? TV/Music/Books/Fridge/Heater?
A CD player, a radio, a heater, no air conditioner.

How do you deal with isolation in the crane cab?
When there is a wait time or down time, I talk on the 2 way radio to the crew about anything and everything, tell jokes etc

Were you ever afraid of heights? Have you ever felt woozy?
Yes I was afraid of heights, but I have overcome it through being a crane driver after so many years. I have never felt woozy.

What is the most dangerous situation you have been in whilst driving the crane?
The most dangerous situation would have to be when I was at my maximum reach and the brake wouldn’t hold on a very windy day. We managed okay though. Windy days always prove difficult because of the surroundings, other buildings etc.

What is your favourite art work?
Charles Goldie’s artwork of the Maoris

Who is your favourite artist?
Charles Frederick Goldie
Leonardo Da Vinci – Mona Lisa

What is so special about being a Crane Drive?
When I’m not up in the crane cab, it’s great interacting with the subs on the ground. Good bunch, they have to be on good terms with a Crane Driver to facilitate prompt unloading.

Also, seeing the project complete, feeling a part of it and proud to share with others that you helped build it.

Lastly, the views from the crane, is another dimension.

Do you have any words for aspiring crane drivers?
Take your time learning the skills. Safety is a high priority. You must abide by what you can and cannot do. You must understand the capacity of loads, correct gears your working with. You must know how to safety load and tie. You must communicate all the time from load, lift to placing. One mistake and it could be fatal.

I really enjoy my job!

Image Credits:


Photos by Jennifer French