Heavy Lifters: Finding the Right Balance

As the crane segment is poised for recovery this year, the mix of machines needed is changing, and vendors are enthusiastic that it will lead to profits. "The economy is better, construction is up, and people are starting to buy," says Peter Juhren, corporate service manager for Morrow Equipment Co. LLC, a distributor for Germany-based Liebherr, which is bringing more than 20 pieces of equipment that will cover 50,000 sq ft of outdoor exhibit space. Towering over its massive display is its LR11000, a 1,200-ton-capacity crawler crane that can reach up to 728 ft in the air.

Likewise, Terex Corp. brings its Superlift 3800, which made its debut at last year's Bauma show in Germany but is set up—in true Vegas style—much bigger this time. The Bauma model had a 328-ft main boom and 40-ft fixed jib, typical for wind projects, but this version is rigged up with a 276-ft boom, a 197-ft luffing jib and a mobile counterweight wagon, which is typical for petrochemical and power applications. Terex unit Genie will show its new 180-ft-tall SX-180 boom lift, which is the world's tallest and requires no special road permits. Xtreme plans to roll out its XR6538, a 65,000-lb telehandler that tips the scales at 95,000 lb. It is an alternative to some cranes that can be more expensive to use and, in the U.S., must have a certified operator.

Not to be outdone, Manitowoc is abuzz with plans to unveil crawler cranes, including its MLC165, a 165-ton machine that makes its U.S. debut here; two others are planned to be unveiled the first day of the show. Sources close to the company tell ENR that Manitowoc intends to roll out its next-generation Variable Position Counterweight technology—first introduced at CONEXPO 2008 on its 2,500-ton model 31000—on one or more of these cranes. The transverse counterweight design, which increases versatility, expedites set-up time and allows operators to tap into the full capability of the load chart, is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit between Manitowoc and Sany America, another exhibitor whose version of the technology it calls Auto Counterbalance Equalization. Such intelligent machine controls are also a major trend to watch.

Tech and Telematics: Making Construction Smarter

CONEXPO is not just about machines. More than 150 companies are slated to exhibit inside a technology pavilion, sponsored by the Associated General Contractors of America. Firms that have survived the downturn have a renewed focus on profitability and are looking to technology to fill the gaps.

"I think folks are bullish on the fact there are a lot more jobs being put out to bid, but that doesn't mean they are going to be profitable," says Doug Chambers, co-founder of FieldLens, which is unveiling its new mobile productivity tool that already has 1,100 users in beta-testing. Initially, the app will be available for Android and iOS platforms.

Machine controls and telematics are still largely untapped areas that promise to boost profits. At a meeting of the Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP) in Las Vegas on March 2, leaders of AEMP and AEM are expected to sign a landmark deal to share machine data between manufacturers and fleet owners. Users expect this decision to open up new efficiencies for fleet owners and project managers alike.

Tackling Tier 4: Clean Diesels at the Finish Line

After nearly two decades and billions of dollars, off-road manufacturers have nearly ended their marathon to meet federal diesel-engine emission limits in the U.S., and CONEXPO has new products designed to accept these new Tier 4 Final engines. Contractors now face added costs and headaches, though vendors promise efficiency gains. The change will happen fast. On-road trucks in 2010 reached an emissions milestone similar to off-road's 2014 limits and have penetrated 15% of the truck population, up from 11% last year, according to the Diesel Technology Forum.