Reporter: Loaded to the limit

For S.G. Marino Crane Services, a company that hauls massive cranes from its yard in Connecticut to locations throughout the United States, tires are a weak link in the moving process.

Heavy loads, rough terrain and high pressures all conspire to shorten tire life, especially on hydraulic trailers, which carry the heaviest cargo.

“We bring tires right to their extreme load,” says general manager Bill Glowacki. “Most of these trailers that are designed today, the weak link of it is the tire. They can’t get enough tires under them. The capacities we are running to are actually tire loads.”

The company has a fleet of more than 100 cranes, including a 1,250-metric-ton-capacity Demag that takes 88 trailers to move and has 700 feet of boom.

The severity of the duty requires a constant maintenance program focusing on tires. But unlike over-the-road fleets that tend to change tires based on mileage, heavy haulers like Marino Crane must rely on constant visual inspections. “We have two guys here that do visual inspections all the time,” Glowacki says.

The heavy stuff doesn’t get much mileage, Glowacki says. Marino generally doesn’t run its heavy hydraulic trailers on the road. About 80 percent of the time, the company hauls its hydraulic modules to the jobsite on a flat drop-deck trailer in sections of four to six axles. Once at the jobsite, the hydraulic modules are configured and loaded with a crane or other heavy load.

The tires on the very heavy loads are rated for low speed – between 5 mph and 10 mph – and are run with very high pressures, up to 130 pounds. Pressures are adjusted to adapt to road conditions. Plus, on site, the heavy haul vehicles run over large rocks and other obstacles. “We climb up and over curbs with them,” Glowacki says. “That’s what we’re into: heavy loads and heavy scuffing.”

Tires rank just behind wages and fuel as a cost. In addition to its more than 200 trailers, Marino crane also runs 24 truck tractors.

Jimmy Ercolani, master mechanic for Marino, says he buys 1,200 to 1,500 tires a year, at an annual cost of approximately $405,000.

Marino runs Michelin tires on its off-road, heavy hydraulic trailers, and Goodyears on most of its other equipment.

The company works closely with its local Goodyear dealer, Toce Brothers Inc., in Torrington, Connecticut, to maintain and select tires. Dealer personnel have recommended products for specific applications that have proven to work well.

“There are some people at the local dealer who are very knowledgeable about the products and have been very helpful in selecting tires for us over the years,” Glowacki says.

Because the right tire is key to the job, Marino makes sure it has extra tires and other parts available on its jobs.

“When we go with the hydraulic trailers and some of the large cranes to jobs, we ship 20-foot containers with spare parts, oil and extra tires,” Glowacki says. “When you’re doing one of these hauls down the road at 2 a.m. and you have a four-hour window, you can’t wait for somebody to try to find you something. You have to have everything you need and tires is one of those things.”