Big Turnout, Low Scores, Top Operators Claim the Day at Southeast Crane Operator Competition in North Carolina

An extremely talented group of crane operators with as much as 40 years of experience demonstrated stellar precision control during the Southeast Regional CIC Crane Operator & Rigger Skills Competition in Rockingham, N.C., on Jan. 17. The scores for the top 10-12 operators were better than most of the best performing operators at previous regional events organized by Crane Institute Certification.

“Safety should always be the highest priority,” said Jason McElrath, President of M&P Specialty Insurance, which sponsored the event along with Crane Industry Services and Superior Cranes Inc. “These skills competitions help raise the appreciation of the general public and the crane industry of the need for quality trained and certified operators,” he said. M&P provides insurance and risk management services for crane, rigging, steel erection, heavy hauling, and crane inspection.

The matchup of skills was so competitive that three finalists were selected to move onto the Championship instead of two. Fred King of Superior Crane placed first with a score of 39.76, while Paul Aldridge of AME Inc., and Big John Clodfelter of Superior Cranes tied for second at 43.60. With zero deductions, their scores rivaled those of past Championship competitors. Event sponsors Crane Industry Services, M&P Specialty Insurance, and Superior Cranes Inc., agreed to cover the added travel costs of sending a third operator to the Championship.

Experienced and Talented Operators

While two operators with no experience competed, the average was 15 years. Most operators represented crane rental companies, but several work for industrial contractors and electric power companies.

“Without a doubt, this is the best group of operators I’ve seen compete. Any one of the winners from this competition could earn the title of 2015 Champion,” said Cliff Dickinson, President of Crane Industry Services, who has served as judge at this and two previous Championship competitions. Crane Industry Services, Villa Rica, Ga., provides training and certification for material handling personnel, lift planning, accident reconstruction, crane inspection, and other lift consulting services. In addition, CIC Practical Examiners Terry Norris of Crane Industry Services and Barney Shorter of Crane Training Group, volunteered as judges.

“We had a very well-trained pool of operators in the competition. All of them represented their companies well,” said Joe Everett, president of Superior Cranes Inc., which held the event at their new headquarters facility in Rockingham, N.C., and provided three cranes for the competition—two Link-Belt RTC8090s and a Link-Belt HTC86100 truck crane. “To see two of my operators on top of the leaderboard at the end of the competition…I could not be more proud of them,” he said.

Fred King began learning to operate cranes when he was a teenager working with his stepfather, a dragline operator. He stressed the importance of proper hands-on training. “You cannot learn good operation in the books,” he said.

Big John Clodfelter said, “I love being out there in the cranes. It’s like being in your own world.” Paul Aldridge alluded to the stress involved with crane operation, and advised those considering this as a career that the job takes extreme patience.

“The challenges faced by operators in the CIC Crane Operator & Rigger Skills Competition are designed to assess depth perception, load control, and operating skills. Certification from an accredited testing provider, such as CIC, validates an operator’s knowledge and operating skills. Certification gives employers a tool to use in combination with training and practical experience to prepare operators for the job,” said Jim Headley, CEO of CIC.

This was the largest regional competition to date, with 35 operators and about 150 spectators. Operators who did not qualify for the Championship will have another chance to compete in the Southeast on May 9 in Birmingham, Ala. Regional finalists advance to a Championship event to be held later in 2015, where they will compete for a $10,000 grand prize.

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