Materials in Motion

Important Crane Terminology to Know

The crane industry uses many terminologies and technical phrases. It is important to know and understand these terms to ensure efficient communication among users in the material handling market.

These are some of the terms you should know when working with light cranes:

  • Alu-Track: Alu-Track® is Spanco’s proprietary aluminum enclosed track. Alu-Track can be used for crane bridges and/or runways and is maintenance-free, non-corroding, and spark-resistant.
  • Articulating Jib Crane: “Articulating” refers to something that is connected by joints. Articulating jib cranes offer a material handling solution for applications moving around beams and corners, or reaching under and into machinery. Articulating jibs can be floor, wall, ceiling, or bridge crane-mounted to suit a particular application.
  • Beam: A beam is a long piece of structural metal that spans part of a building; it is used as the overhead structure that supports the trolley hoist and load.
  • Boom: An overhead crane boom is a horizontal member that the trolley mounts to. The boom allows a load to be hoisted or lowered anywhere within the clear span.Bridge: A bridge is part of a crane consisting of one or more girders, trucks, end ties, foot walks, and if motorized, a drive mechanism, which carries the trolley or trolleys the full length of the bridge perpendicular to the runways.
  • Bridge Rail: Bridge rail is the track where the trolley travels, which is supported by the bridge girder(s).
  • Cantilever: A cantilever is a long projecting beam or girder that is fixed only at one end. The cantilever is the structural member that supports the trolley on a crane.
  • Capacity: Capacity is the maximum rated load that a crane is designed to handle safely.
  • Ceiling-Mounted: Ceiling-mounting is a type of system mounting that allows an overhead crane to be hung from existing roof beams or trusses. Ceiling-mounted cranes require no system support columns or building column attachments and use no production floor space.
  • Clearance: Clearance is the minimum distance from any part of the crane to the nearest obstruction.
  • Crane: A crane is a type of machine, generally equipped with a hoist, wire ropes or chains, and sheaves, that can be used both to lift and lower materials and to move them horizontally. It is mainly used for lifting heavy objects and transporting them to other places. It uses one or more simple machines to create a mechanical advantage to move loads beyond the normal capability of a human. Cranes are commonly employed in the transportation industry for loading and unloading freight, in the construction industry for moving materials, and in the manufacturing industry for assembling heavy equipment.
  • End Approach: End approach is the minimum horizontal distance between the outermost extremities of the crane and the centerline of the hook.
  • End Truck: An end truck is an assembly of parts—including a frame and wheels—that support the girders of a bridge crane and allow movement along the runway.
  • Freestanding Jib Crane: A freestanding jib crane can be installed almost anywhere, including outdoors. Freestanding jib cranes are typically foundation mounted, and they offer higher capacities, longer spans, and greater rotation than wall-mounted jib cranes.
  • Freestanding Workstation Bridge Crane: A freestanding workstation bridge crane is not ceiling mounted, but rather, mounted on independent system support columns. The columns are usually installed above the floor without the use of footers, which means they can be easily relocated, expanded, or modified, and they don’t rely on the support of the roof for use and installation.
  • Gantry Crane: A gantry crane is a crane with a bridge beam supported on two or more legs that run parallel on fixed rails or a runway.
  • Hoist: A hoist is a machinery unit that is used to lift and lower a load.
  • Hook Approach: Hook approach is the minimum horizontal distance between the center of the runway rail and the hook.
  • Jib Crane: A jib crane is a type of crane where a horizontal member (jib or boom), supporting a moveable hoist, is fixed to a wall or to a floor-mounted mast. Jib cranes are used in many industrial premises and on military vehicles. The jib may swing through an arc, to give additional movement, or be fixed. Similar cranes, often known simply as hoists, were fitted on the top floor of warehouse buildings to enable goods to be lifted to all floors.
  • Lift: Lift refers to the maximum vertical distance that a crane’s hook, magnet, bucket, or attachment point can move.
  • Load: Load refers to the total superimposed weight on the load block or hook.
  • Mast Style Jib Crane: Mast style jib cranes are a lower cost alternative to freestanding jib cranes. They do not require a foundation or large base plate. They do require mounting at the top and the bottom, and they provide full 360-degree rotation. Mast style jib cranes are available in both a full cantilever and drop cantilever designs.
    • The Mast Style Jib Crane with full cantilever provides maximum clearance by mounting the cantilevered boom at the top of the mast.
    • The Mast Style Jib crane with drop cantilever is identical to the full cantilever with the addition of side plate connections to “drop mount” the boom permanently at any specified height on the mast. Drop cantilever booms allow for clearance from overhead obstructions that are located below the top of the mast.
  • Monorail: Monorail is the overhead track where the trolley travels. It is used to transport loads.
  • Pendant: A pendant is a hanging electrical control device for floor operation, which consists of contacts that are operated using a push-button to control the powered motions of the crane, hoist, and auxiliary equipment.
  • Rail Sweep: A rail sweep is a device attached to the crane and located in front of the crane’s leading wheels to push aside loose obstructions.
  • Retrofit Jib Drive: A retrofit jib drive unit is a motorized component that can be added to a manual jib crane after installation to power the crane.
  • Runway rail: Runway rail is the enclosed track where a bridge crane travels.
  • Single Leg Gantry: A single leg gantry, or semigantry, is a gantry crane with one end of the bridge rigidly supported on one or more legs running on a fixed rail or runway, and the other end of the bridge supported by an end truck running on an elevated rail or runway.
  • Span: Span is the horizontal distance, center to center, between runway rails.
  • Trolley: A trolley is a unit that travels along a monorail track, jib boom, or bridge girder to transport a load.
  • Wall-Traveling Jib Crane: A wall-traveling jib crane is a crane with a cantilever frame with or without trolley and supported from a side wall or line of columns of a building. It operates by traveling on a runway attached to the side wall or columns.
  • Workstation Bridge Crane: A workstation bridge crane is primarily used for material handling within one or multiple work cells. Workstation bridge cranes are designed to provide full coverage within a rectangular area. The maximum capacity for this type of crane is two tons.


These terms and phrases are some of the most common in the crane and material handling industries. It is important to know these terms for many crane related tasks, including installation, maintenance, operations, quoting, and more. For additional terms and definitions specific to Spanco systems, check the glossary of terms on our website.


About the Author

Oscar Rojas is a Regional Sales Manager with Spanco and Rigid Lifelines. He received a master’s degree from Ohio University, and he has over 15 years of experience in the crane industry.