The overhead crane operator testing programme was formally launched last month at Promat.

Although costs were not set by press date, the organisation that created the test – The National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators – charges candidates $165 for its mobile crane written test and $60 for the practical test.

Like the NCCCO’s other tests in mobile and tower cranes, the scheme comes in two parts: a written and a practical examination. In addition, the operator must pass a physical exam and a drug test.

The test only covers cranes with load capacities of 5 US ton (4.5t) or greater and three powered functions –eg, hoist, travel and trolley. Cranes appropriate for the course include single-girder bridge cranes with underhung trolley, double-girder bridge cranes with top-running trolley, double-girder bridge cranes with underhung trolley, gantry cranes, semi-gantry cranes and cantilever gantry cranes. Jib cranes are excluded because they would be too difficult to control in the practical exam.

The written exam consists of 60 multiple choice questions which must be answered within an hour. Based on results of a US survey, the NCCCO developed a bank of questions in five domains: pre-operation activities (27%), work requirements (27%), load handling (27%), shutdown and secure (4%) and technical knowledge (15%). Applicants can get no more than 18 questions wrong to pass the test.

Within one year of passing the written test, candidates must take a practical exam for depth perception, trolley and bridge travel, load control, hoisting and controlling the load. There are four tests: making a true vertical lift (two minutes), placing a load in a circle (two minutes), negotiating a corridor with obstruction and right angle (four minutes), and a trolley laydown operation (three minutes). Candidates have five minutes to play around with the crane before the test begins. Generally speaking, points are deducted for exceeding the time limit, hitting obstructions, touching the ground, or missing targets. Candidates pass with a score of 70% or better.

It lasts five years. After passing year four, operators must recertify by taking a written exam. Also, those who can document more than 1,000 hours of crane-related experience need not retake the practical exam – but others do.

The NCCCO has published handbooks for candidates and written test and practical test proctors. Candidates must watch a video demonstrating the practical test before they take the test.

There is no charge for sites running written tests with more than 15 candidates. Sites with between 11 and 14 applicants must pay $200 in addition to candidate fees, and sites with from one to 10 applicants must pay $300.

Practical test sites must pay $50 registration plus buy materials and assemble the test site according to the NCCCO’s plans which include, among other things, 54 tennis balls.

John Alexander, president of crane training firm Cranetex and co-chairman of the committee of experts that helped develop the programme, said the materials bill for the practical test site is about $200. The hardest thing to do is to create the test weight, which must weigh 1,500 lb-2,000 lb (680kg-900kg) and 3 ft (.9m) in diameter.