In response to labor shortages and industry trends, Hunterdon County-based arborist and crane operation trainer Hans Tielmann unveiled a simulation training program for mobile crane operators Nov. 17 at the Tree Care Industry Association trade show in Indianapolis.
Tielmann, who goes by the moniker NJ Crane Expert, developed the training with Montreal simulation vendor CM Labs, which built NJ Crane Expert’s mobile trailer with two crane simulation training stations.
The equipment allows Tielmann to cart his training center around the country to construction companies seeking to train their workers or potential hires and to those who want to improve the skills of their operators.
The need for skilled mobile crane operators is on the rise, Tielmann said, due to demand in the residential real estate construction market. A few years ago, the “next big thing” for residential real estate companies to purchase was a bucket truck, also known as cherry picker, Tielmann explained. Now, it’s a mobile boom crane.
Tielmann became a crane operator 12 years ago after a number of years in tree care. He trains on several types of cranes and said he also has the only articulating knuckle boom crane used solely for training in the whole country.
“A lot of people think I’m crazy that I have this piece that I don’t put to work, but it’s another opportunity to give people the training they need for the workforce,” he said of the articulating knuckle boom crane.
In addition, the crane generates more revenue as a trainer than it would on work sites, he said.
The newly launched crane simulator can train operators on six separate pieces of equipment, including all-terrain cranes, rough terrain cranes, crawlers, tower cranes, harvesters, and feller-bunchers.
“Back during early COVID, we had a tremendous influx in inquiries as to whether or not we could train people with no experience to be a crane operator. It would take months, and training at their expense didn’t make sense. Unless they were a student or in a union, it wasn’t practical or financially viable,” he said.
“I felt bad because you could tell that they were excited or interested, but there wasn’t really an opportunity for them. That’s why I wanted to get this technology more available to the public and smaller companies that want to promote someone as a crane operator without having to put them in situations where others can be hurt; or having to take people off the job to train other employees,” he said.
Tielmann said that due to the current demand in residential construction and understaffing, companies doing the work are “bogged down.” He said that this has put some companies in the position of having the customers but not having a trained crane operator to do the work.
“There’s starting to be more cranes toppling over in residential jobs. These people are not getting certified, they’re not going through the proper channels of getting themselves squared away with operations. That’s a big liability for people getting hurt, and if you’re not trained properly on the equipment, you’re going to have some big fines if OSHA shows up,” he explained.
For those reasons, accessibility is important to Tielmann. Most training programs, he said, are in training centers rather than mobile trailers that can show up to a job site. The NJ Crane Expert training trailers can also certify a worker to operate a crane before starting a job. Construction companies that want to make sure that potential operators are up to snuff can do so without putting their equipment on the line.
And unlike training on a crane in real life, the simulation training allows the student to learn to navigate different environments and the things they can’t control. In the virtual world—in the training trailer—NJ Crane Expert can conjure up a snow storm, change how shadows cast depending on the time of the day and test out working in the face of the sun.
“We’re able to recreate stuff like that and put them through those processes of making those decisions,” Tielmann said. “We wanted to have the opportunity to bring in any passionate individual and be able to put them in a learning environment that’s safe and that has the most current technology available, so they could have the best education possible when it comes to understanding the principles and the proper sequence to operating,” he said.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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