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What’s the Difference Between a Crane and a Derrick?

What’s the Difference Between a Crane and a Derrick?

For contractors, you have to answer a host of questions for each job site. You have to figure out the timeline for how quickly you can complete construction, how many people to hire to perform the jobs that need to be done, and what kinds of materials and equipment your crew will require. 

Furthermore, you will need to determine how you transport those materials. You may have to lift heavy objects into place or move them from one part of the job site to another. That will likely require the use of some specialized machinery.

Ever Wonder What the Difference Between Cranes and Derricks Is?

If you have been in the crane space, especially looking at usage, safety, and regulatory guidelines, you have most likely come across both crane and derrick terminology within the same sets of regulations. Both are types of lifting equipment used in construction and other industries. While they are similar in function, there are some key differences between the two. 

How To Tell the Difference Between Cranes and Derricks

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines the two types of lifting machinery as follows:

  • 1910.179(a)(1): A crane is a machine for lifting and lowering a load and moving it horizontally, with the hoisting mechanism an integral part of the machine. Cranes, whether fixed or mobile, are driven manually or by power.
  • 1910.181(a)(1):  A derrick is an apparatus consisting of a mast or equivalent member held at the head by guys or braces, with or without a boom, for use with a hoisting mechanism and operating ropes.

Seems pretty straightforward, right? Simply put, the easiest way to tell this difference is that a derrick will have a central mast or tower structure from which the boom is fixed and can move at an angle to lift. When it comes to cranes, the boom itself is the main support structure of the hoist system.

These, of course, are general guidelines, and there are numerous variations in crane and derrick designs based on specific models and applications. But if there is a central vertical mast and a boom attached such that it can form a V shape, odds are you are looking at a derrick.

Applications for Both Types of Lifting Mechanisms

You’ll see cranes and derricks commonly used across a variety of applications, including construction projects, infrastructure development, port and shipyard operations, the oil industry, and industrial manufacturing facilities.

It's important to note that the specific type and configuration of cranes and derricks can vary based on the requirements of different industries and projects. Manufacturers often offer specialized versions tailored to specific applications, ensuring optimal performance and safety for the intended use.

Cranes, whether mobile or fixed tower varieties, tend to offer a greater degree of movement and maneuverability for lifting on-site, while derricks are more stationary but highly specialized. Here are a few different lifting requirements or scenarios and a general recommendation of which type of lifting mechanism may fit the job better:

  • Heavier loads can generally be handled much easier by modern cranes. That isn’t to say a derrick can’t lift a considerable amount of weight, but overall, cranes tend to outmatch derricks in upper weight limits.
  • For long-term installations, derricks are standard for lifting repetitive and uniform loads. A common example is their use at ports for loading and unloading cargo ships.
  • When moving around a site is necessary, opting for a crane is a must, especially mobile hydraulic cranes. They allow for repositioning as site conditions and needs change.
  • If the project calls for performing lifts on a rooftop, the lighter build of derricks makes them a common choice. Placing a smaller, lighter derrick on the roof can often be safer and cheaper than a ground crane large enough to reach.

Trusted Cranes With Parker’s Crane Service

The best tools for operating a crane safely are experience, communication, and proper training. With over 40 years of moving and using cranes, Parker’s Crane Service has the expertise you need for safe, reliable crane operations, no matter the job site or weather

We pride ourselves on safety and our Zero Accident Philosophy and conduct many detailed safety measures when performing a job to ensure that no project carries unnecessary risk. We perform the following for every single job we take:

  • Pre-Lift Job Assessments
  • Daily Risk Assessments
  • On-Site Hazard Analysis
  • Routine Management Audits

With a fleet of well-maintained hydraulic truck cranes, we offer not only the best equipment, but can also help with site installation, maintenance, and operation. Our crew is OSHA and MSHA-compliant to ensure your site and crew safety.

Parker's Crane provides quality crane rental, rigging, and heavy hauling services throughout the Carolinas and the East Coast. Contact us if you would like to discuss your needs and whether or not our services and equipment will work for your construction project. We provide free on-site quotes and evaluations.