U.S.-company Mansfield Crane Service tackles remote cell tower installs with its new Grove GMK5250XL-1 — helping expand service to remote rural areas in Pennsylvania and New York.
As 2020 dawned, wireless carriers across the United States were heavily investing in upgrading cellular networks to 5G standards. Cell tower construction was growing at a pace of 8.7% each year since 2016.
Overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic radically introduced a stay-at-home culture that upended how Americans work, learn and relax. Pressure intensified for cellular service providers to add towers and update antennae to support the ballooning demand, particularly in rural regions.
Mansfield Crane Service (Mansfield) serves a remote and rugged swath of north-central Pennsylvania and upstate New York. It’s an area rich in natural gas, thanks to vast reserves of Marcellus shale. And the energy sector has been the backbone of Mansfield’s work, moving drilling rigs and providing contract lifting and rigging services.
Owner Trapper Wyman, having experienced the sharply cyclical nature of the energy industry, had the foresight to quickly pivot with the pandemic.
“One lesson I learned long ago is to be ready to change as the market changes, and to be prepared by selecting cranes that can do multiple jobs. That mindset played into our decision to add the new GMK5250XL-1 to our fleet,” he said.
Today Mansfield’s Grove crane fleet numbers nine models, including four all-terrain mobile cranes that range from four-axle, 115 USt GMK4115 to a six-axle, 350 USt GMK6350. The new Grove GMK5250XL-1 allowed Mansfield to add more jobs to the schedule.
Mansfield has established a strong reputation with all the major wireless carriers in northcentral Pennsylvania, so the company was well-positioned with the experience and equipment to deliver results with speed and safety.
“We have 20 years of experience working with all of the major cellular carriers. Over that period, self-supporting lattice cell towers have climbed taller with 300 ft now common for 5G, particularly in areas where access is obscured by mountains and heavy tree cover,” Wyman said.
The 5G antennae units are also more complex, with up to 15 antennae per tower.
On flat terrain, towers can be spaced 30 - 45 miles apart, while in hilly and heavily forested regions like those found in northern Pennsylvania, the range shrinks to just three to five miles. The challenges of planting more towers, in closer proximity and in harder to access areas, can potentially slow the pace of installation.
Reach and maneuverability
“Many of these cell sites are so compact that you do not always have room to use a jib,” Wyman said. “You need a crane with ample main boom that can work in a cramped space. The Grove GMK5250XL-1 is one of the few cranes that can do many of these projects, meaning, if we didn’t have this crane, we could not do the job.”
The GMK5250XL-1 has the longest boom of any five-axle all terrain crane on the market. Its eight-section main boom stretches to 257.5 ft, with an additional 58.4 ft swingaway jib.
“We’ve compared competitors, but the strongest load charts are with Grove. Our first crane was a 1972 Grove truck crane, and ever since, across the whole product line, we always find that Grove has the best load charts for our applications,” Wyman said.
At the center of Mansfield’s lineup us its newest crane, a 300 USt Grove GMK5250XL-1, whose lifting capacities match those typically found in larger and heavier six-axle all-terrain cranes.
Superior roading, easy setup
“The challenge is not only height, but also access,” Wyman explained. “To arrive at these remote cell sites, you navigate service roads that are not always maintained, with deep ruts, overgrown vegetation and steep grades.”
The GMK5250XL-1 is powered by a single Mercedes-Benz 532 hp, six-cylinder Tier 4 Final engine. This five-axle is the first Grove all-terrain crane to offer the VIAB turbo clutch module, which is common in many heavy-duty trucks. It enables wear-free starting and braking to help prevent overheating and component wear, while using about 30% less fuel than its predecessor model.
The crane’s MEGATRAK independent suspension delivers a smoother ride both on highways and access roads, while its 10 x 6 x 10 steer enables the Grove to reach rugged sites where other types of cranes cannot go.
Mansfield’s operator can set up the GMK5250XL-1 using the crane’s self-rigging auxiliary hoist, which eliminates the need for an assist crane. Another feature that eases the ability to work in uneven, compact spaces is Grove’s MAXBase technology, which allows for asymmetrical outrigger positions so lifts can be made without reducing load capacities. Manitowoc’s intuitive Crane Control System (CCS) displays limits and calculates load charts for the operator for each MAXBase configuration.
Mansfield can complete most tower placements in 2-3 days with the five-axle all terrain crane, one operator and one rigger.
“Our most important advantage is our reliability. Customers measure us on downtime. Non-productive time, NPT, is the metric, and if you go over a certain percentage threshold you can lose the contract or get kicked off the job,” Wyman said.
Upholding that customer trust is a deciding factor in how Wyman chooses employees and equipment.
“Mansfield Crane was built on the successful integration of mettle and iron; mettle being the human part and iron being the machine. Our motto is ‘Always Ready,’ and we have to be. We don’t have a choice,” he said.
Stephenson Equipment, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based Grove dealer, helped Mansfield select the GMK5250XL-1 and has provided service and sales support for Trapper Wyman and his late father, Edward Wyman, through the years.
Mansfield Crane was founded in 1998 by Trapper Wyman and his late father, Edward Wyman. Edward sold the family house to invest in their first piece of equipment, a 1972 Grove truck crane. Today the company has over 25 employees and a fleet of nine cranes. Mansfield Crane services energy, infrastructure, industrial, commercial and industries across the northern Pennsylvania and upstate New York regions.