South Carolina-based Coastal Crane was due to replace a 60 t truck crane when Manitowoc dealer MGX suggested the National Crane NBT60XL boom truck instead. Combining a 151 ft boom with a customized 260-inch wheelbase, the NBT60XL offers the pinnacle of reach, capacity, and maneuverability.
The resort town of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with its 60 miles of beachfront and 90 golf courses, is both a vacation destination and retirement haven. In 2021, Myrtle Beach was named one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report.
One constant amidst the wave of new faces and construction is Coastal Crane Service. Charles Caughman is the third-generation owner of what could be coined “Myrtle Beach’s hometown crane company.”
For 50 years, the lion’s share of lifts has stayed within town limits. The most significant change over this time has been to Coastal’s fleet. Once exclusively truck-mounted cranes, Coastal’s mix is shifting to add larger National Crane boom trucks due to engineering advances that merge truck-crane features into its new 40-ton-and-up models. The newest member of the Coastal fleet is a 60 USt NBT60XL that is fast becoming a game-changer for the business.
Around 1972, Charles’ grandfather, Jeff Whittington, added a 30 t P&H crane to his forklift rental store. That single business decision drew red-hot demand from customers, and Coastal Crane was born. As Jeff expanded his crane inventory, he became partial to Grove truck-mount models and made many visits to the factory in Shady Grove, Pennsylvania.
Long before "voice of the customer" was ingrained into new product development, Jeff would sketch suggestions on paper napkins over dinner with his Grove sales manager. (Charles believes a few of those ideas even made their way into Grove offsettable swing-away jib designs.)
As a young boy through his teen years, Charles spent countless hours at the shop with his grandfather, riding along on jobs, and eventually becoming a certified operator. “I’m told there are photos of me in diapers on a crane,” Charles jokes.
He recalls how one memorable lift forever endeared Coastal Crane to the Myrtle Beach community. In 1987, his grandfather fabricated a giant 20-ft, 300-lbs Christmas star and used a crane to hoist it 180 ft over the town center. The lighted star, held in the air by a Coastal crane, has become a December holiday tradition.
Charles joined the company full-time after graduating high school, and his grandfather adopted a new role as a mentor. “He always included me in making crane decisions and deals. We didn’t always see eye to eye. We had fights about what we were buying next. There’d be cranes I saw that we needed, and he would disagree and let me know why,” he says, “But at the end of the day, he’d shove the paperwork across the desk and say, ‘You want it, you get it.’”
Through the 2000s, Myrtle Beach bloomed into a nationally recognized vacation hub. Coastal’s taxi crane jobs rose alongside the new condos and hotel renovations.
The first National Crane Coastal owned was a 1998, 28 t stand-up Series 1100 with 95 ft of main boom. Years later, when Charles upsized to a National 45 USt, he didn’t imagine ever needing a larger boom truck. Yet truck-mounted cranes, with their higher capacities, roadability, and single-operator setup, are not as nimble as boom trucks in navigating congested city streets and bustling interstates.
“As far as the weights of what we're lifting, that’s been the biggest change I’ve seen in our work. We are now setting 90,000-100,000-lbs concrete drainage boxes. Back in the day when these hotels were originally built, there was no infrastructure for drainage!”
Coastal updates its cranes when they reach the 10-to-14-year limit. In 2020, as their 60 t truck crane hit that age range, National released its largest model to date: the NBT60XL, a 60-USt boom truck with a five-section full power boom and 202 ft max tip height.
Charles’ dealer, MGX Equipment Services, helped him weigh the choice between a truck crane or a boom truck. (MGX represents both Grove and National Crane, as well as Manitowoc crawler cranes and Potain self-erecting tower crane product lines.) A visit to the factory followed in the summer of 2021. Charles, accompanied by Crockett Surratt and Michelle Russell with MGX, met with the National Crane product team and tested the NBT60XL.
“The NBT60XL outperformed my expectations. Its load charts had the brawn and ability we needed, but since it’s on a Class 8 chassis, you have a comfortable ride at highway speeds and premium features and feel of a Peterbilt truck cab, like air ride suspension and automatic transmission.”
Charles worked with National Crane’s Truck Mod Center to customize his 60-t boom truck on a 2021 Peterbilt with a 260-inch wheelbase for a shorter overall package. “This gives us a much sharper turning radius and you don’t have as much boom overhang, so that, coupled with the Peterbilt chassis, makes it much more maneuverable to drive,” Charles says.
The 151 ft, five-section full power boom provides added length and reduces the need to use its 36 ft optional swing-away jib. “Using a jib can be difficult with our jobs because you are swinging over parked cars and between hotels. In pure setup time, the longer boom saves us two hours of manual work,” Charles says. The crane’s “X-style” front outrigger design also gives stability without a single front outrigger (SFO).
The MGX and National Crane teams worked in lockstep to address his questions and ensure Charles was confident with his final decision. He ranks the NBT60XL purchase as being one of the most hands-on sales experiences, from the discovery phase through delivery, which included a full inspection and personalized training by MGX personnel.
The rapport Coastal Crane has with MGX Equipment Services is built on a bedrock of trust and accountability. Says Charles, “Customer communication is paramount. Whenever I call, I reach a real person, or if they don’t immediately answer, they follow up, no matter if I am buying or crying.”
His MGX rep, Crockett Surratt, takes those comments as a compliment, proof of how the dealership puts its mission into action. “Buying equipment is the first part but taking care of the crane and customer are the most important parts of what we do,” says Crockett Surratt, account manager at MGX.
Charles demonstrates that same philosophy as he continues the Coastal legacy founded by his grandfather, who passed away in 2020. That includes raising the Christmas star, only this year, it might be held aloft by a National Crane NBT60XL.