Overhead Gantry Crane

A crane is a machine that is capable of raising and lowering heavy objects and moving the objects from one place to other. An overhead crane usually consists of three separate motions:

  • The first motion is the hoist, which raises and lowers the material.
  • The second is the trolley (cross travel), which allows the hoist to be positioned directly above the material for placement.
  • The third is the gantry or bridge motion (long travel), which allows the entire crane to be moved along the working area.

Cranes are distinguished from hoists, which can lift objects but cannot move them sideways. The design of overhead cranes varies widely according to their major operational specifications such as type of motion of the crane structure, weight, and type of the load, location of the crane, geometric features, operating regimes, and environmental conditions.

Selecting the right type of overhead crane is critical to streamline workflow and maximize productivity. Many factors are taken into consideration which includes:

Overhead Gantry Crane

Overhead crane test questions and answers

  • What bridge capacity is required?
  • How often is the crane to be used?
  • What span is required?
  • How long is the runway travel?
  • How high must the hoist lift?
  • Is the bridge going to be supported by the building, self-supported, or both?
  • Is the bridge going to be indoors or outdoors?
  • How is the crane powered? All motorized push-pull, hand geared, or a combination?
  • If motorized, how fast? Single or dual speeds? Variable frequency drives
  • What voltages are required?
  • What type of control? Pendant from the hoist, separate track or remote control?
  • Any special features? Cabs, walkways, horns, lights?
  • What specifications, codes or local regulations are applicable?
Overhead crane test questions and answers
Gatorade Training Center @ The Gym in Houston Texas 8/31/2011. This event was put on by Gatorade and NBA.

Electric overhead crane


There are various types of overhead cranes with many being highly specialized, but the great majority of installations fall into one of four categories:

  • Single Girder Cranes – The crane consists of a single bridge girder
    supported on two end trucks. It has a trolley hoist mechanism that runs on the bottom flange of the bridge girder.
  • Double Girder Bridge Cranes – The crane consists of two bridge girders supported on two end trucks. The trolley runs on rails on the top of the bridge girders.
  • Gantry Cranes – These cranes are essentially the same as the regular overhead cranes except that the bridge for carrying the trolley or trolleys is rigidly supported on two or more legs running on fixed rails or other runways. These “legs” eliminate the supporting runway and column system and run on a rail either embedded in or laid on top of the floor.
  • Monorail – For some applications such as production assembly line or service line, only a trolley hoist is required. This type of crane is designed using I-beams like those found in ceiling structures of many factories. The trolleys run along the flat surface on the bottom horizontal bars of the beam. The hoisting mechanism is similar to a single girder crane with the difference that the crane doesn’t have a movable bridge and the hoisting trolley runs on a fixed girder.
electric overhead crane

Single vs double girder crane

Which Crane should you choose – single Girder or Double Girder

Based on the CMAA (Crane Manufacturers Association of America) specifications, both single and double girder cranes are equally rigid, strong, and durable. The principle difference between single and double girder cranes is hook height (how far above the floor your hoist will lift).

Double girder cranes typically allow 18-36 inches higher lift, because the hoist is placed between the cross girders rather than under them. Therefore, the depth of the cross girder is gained in switching to double girders.

single vs double girder crane

Overhead crane cost

Cost Considerations; single girder cranes may cost less for several reasons:

  • Only one girder is required
  • The trolley is simpler
  • Fright expenses are reduced
  • Installation is faster
  • Runway beams are lighter

However, not all cranes should be designed with a single girder. Generally, if the crane has to handle more than 15 ton or the span is more than 80 feet, a double girder crane is a preferred option. Double girder cranes are also highly suitable where the crane needs to be fitted with walkways, cabs, magnet cable reels or other special equipment.

The Crane Manufacturers Association of America (CMAA) is pretty much the head kahuna of the US crane industry. Every reputable crane builder conforms to CMAA Spec 70 (for double girder cranes) or CMAA Spec 74 (for single girder cranes).

Crane Configuration

  1. Under Running (U/R)
  2. Top Running (T/R)

Under running crane

Under running or underslung cranes are supported by using a suspension type support which is connected to the bottom of the frame.

The crane wheels are supported from the bottom of the flange of the crane beams which act as a crane rail and usually only span a portion of the column-to-column span of the structure. Under running, cranes are typically available in standard capacities up to 10 tons (special configurations up to 25 tons and over 90 ft spans). Underhung cranes offer excellent side approaches, close headroom and can be supported on runways hung from existing building members if adequate.

The under running crane offers the following advantages:

  • Very small trolley approach dimensions meaning maximum utilization of the building’s width and height.
  • The possibility of using the existing ceiling girder for securing the crane track.

The following are some limitations to under running cranes:

  • Hook Height: Due to the location of the runway beams, hook height is reduced
  • Roof Load: The load is applied to the roof is greater than that of a top running crane.
  • Flange Loading: Lower flange loading of runway beams require careful sizing; otherwise, you can “peel” the flanges off the beam
Under running crane
Under running overhead crane

Top Running Crane

The crane bridge travels on top of rails mounted on a runway beam supported by either the building columns or columns specifically engineered for the crane.

Top running canes are the most common form of crane design where the crane loads are transmitted to the building columns or free-standing structure.

These cranes have the greatest variation in capacity, span and service class and usually span the full width of the framing supports. These are available in both single girder and double girder configuration.

Overhead crane components

  • The function of a crane is to move the lifted load horizontally and longitudinally in the building.
  • The lifted load is usually supported with a hook which is cabled to a hoist.
  • The hoist is supported by a trolley which moves horizontally along the crane bridge.
  • The crane bridge is connected to a number of crane trucks at each end depending on the capacity and span.
  • The crane trucks can have 2, 4 or 8 wheels based on the capacity of the crane. The wheels ride along a crane rail which is supported by runway beams.
overhead crane components

Crane components


The Bridge is the principal structural component of an overhead crane. It spans the width of the building and comprises one or more load bearing beams or girders. These may be fabricated steel box-girders or rolled-steel joists. The bridge carries the hoist trolley, which travels along the length of the girders during operation.


The track and support system on which the crane operates.
The runway girders are usually considered a part of the building structure and are designed accordingly.

Runway Rail

The rail supported by the runway beams on which the crane travels.

End trucks

Located on either side of the bridge, the end trucks house the wheels on which the entire crane travels. It is an assembly consisting of structural members, wheels, bearings, axles, etc., which supports the bridge girder(s) or the trolley cross member(s).

Electric drive motors typically two-speed or variable-speed units power the wheels and move the crane into the required position. Brakes are mounted on the drive motors and are essential to prevent uncontrolled loads becoming dangerous, and are often electrically operated. Electrical limit switches cut power to the drive motors and prevent the crane from colliding with the building structure at the end of the travel range.

Overhead crane hoist


A hoist mechanism is a unit consisting of a motor drive, coupling, brakes, gearing, drum, ropes, and load block designed to raise, hold and lower the maximum rated load. The hoist mechanism is mounted to the trolley.

Trolley or Crab

The ‘crab’ is the ‘cross travel unit’ from which the hook is lowered and raised. A top-running trolley on a double girder crane runs on rails fitted to the top of the crane bridge. An underhung trolley on a single-girder crane runs on the bottom flange of the crane beam, with drive units connected directly to the trolley. The trolley carries the electric wire rope hoist that supports the load block and hooks through a system of pulleys. A variable-speed AC motor on the hoist drives the load up or down. Limit switches prevent the load block from colliding with the trolley.


Bumper (Buffer): An energy absorbing device intended for reducing impact when a moving crane or trolley reaches the end of its permitted travel, or when two moving cranes or trolleys come into contact. This device may be attached to the bridge, trolley or runway stop.


Controls for an EOT crane are usually mounted in an operator pendant or remote console and comprise various push buttons and switches that operate relays and contactors mounted on the crane. Drive motors and the hoist motor draw substantial currents during operation and require appropriately rated contactors to switch them on and off. Variable frequency inverters provide speed control for motors where accurate positioning is essential. A master contactor is triggered by the main switch and cuts off all power to the crane if a dangerous situation occurs.

Other features on specialized cranes may include end stops, provision of a full-length platform on both girders, provision of under bridge lighting, and provision of a closed, glazed or air-conditioned cabin, specialized controls, etc.

Overhead crane hoist

Overhead crane specifications


Crane Capacity

The rated capacity of the crane is the maximum working load that can be lifted. Crane capacity is expressed in US tons or (metric) tonnes and is required by code to be marked on each side of the crane and hoist; and if the crane has more than one hoisting unit, each hoist shall have its rated load marked on it. Note that the load block, hook, and ropes are not included in the rated load. If the crane is intended to be used along with a magnet, ‘C’ hook, grab, ladle or any other appliance, the dead weight of such appliance should be specified so that the safe working load of the crane could be determined appropriately.

Note: The regulations set forth by OSHA 1910.179 N paragraph (k) states that the crane shall not be loaded beyond its rated load except for test purposes. The load test shall be conducted at or near 125% of the rated load.

Caution: Never pick more than the rated working load limit (WLL) since so many factors go into the design of a crane and one has to look at the safety factor of all the components such as the wire rope, the motors, bearings, sheaves, drums, wheels, rails, hoisting speeds, and beam and steel sizes. In many cranes this will be printed as the safe working load (SWL).

Long travel

‘Long travel’ is the direction of travel of the bridge along the rails.

Cross travel

‘Cross travel’ is the movement of the ‘crab’ from one side of the bridge to the other.

Hook Height

The hook height is the distance from the datum to the highest position of the hook. This dimension is critical in most applications as it determines the height of the runway from the floor and is dependent on the clear inside height of the building. Effective lift is the distance between the beam and the floor, minus the height of the hoist.

Runway Height

The distance between the grade level and the top of
the rail.

Side Clearances

Side clearances are measured from the center of the supporting rail to the face of the supporting column and are required for operation, safety and wheel maintenance.

Overhead crane specifications

Overhead bridge crane specifications

Vertical Clearances

The crane must be able to travel within the building while avoiding obstructions in the building such as lights, equipment, and structural framing. The vertical clearance is based on the size of the crane bridge, location of the hoist and trolley, rail and safety allowance. The lower the crane headroom is, the higher will be the vertical clearance and the lower could be the building height.

Clear Span

The span of the crane is the horizontal center distance between the rails of the runway on which the crane is to travel. Typically the distance is approximately 500 mm less than the width of the building.

How much span a crane requires depends on the crane coverage width dictated by the application. Crane coverage is the horizontal crane coverage and is defined as the crane span less the left side hook approach and right side hook approach.

Runway Length

The longitudinal run of the runway rail parallel to the length of the building.

Hook approaches

The maximum hook approach is the distance from the wall to the nearest possible position of the hook. The smaller the distance, the better will be the floor area utilization.

End Approach

This term describes the minimum horizontal distance parallel to the runway, between the outermost extremities of the crane and the centerline of the hook.

Bridge, Trolley and Lift Speeds

The rate at which the bridge or trolley travels or at which the hoist lifts is usually specified in feet per minute or FPM. The crane operating speeds are selected to allow safe operation while using the pendant. Dual operating speeds, normally a fast and slow speed with a ratio of 4:1, are commonly used, but for optimum control, a variable speed control system is preferred.

Electrical Requirements

Ideally 480 volts, 3 phase, 60 hertz for US requirements. The runway power is usually by a conductor bar, and a hoisting trolley by festoon cable. The control circuit voltage at pendant pushbuttons shall not exceed 150 volts for AC and 300 volts for DC.

How do overhead cranes work?

How do overhead cranes work?

Overhead cranes cover a rectangular area, moving a load side to side and backward and forward.
They typically incorporate a top running trolley hoist which moves along the top of the two bridge beams on its own set of wheels for increased headroom under the crane; also called a top running crane.

What is an overhead gantry crane?

A gantry crane is a crane built atop a gantry, which is a structure used to straddle an object or workspace. They are also called portal cranes, the “portal” being the empty space straddled by the gantry.

What is a gantry crane used for?

A gantry crane is a type of overhead crane that is similar to a bridge crane, but instead of moving on suspended runways, the crane uses legs to support the bridge, trolley, and hoist. These legs travel on tires or on rails that are embedded in the floor or ground structure.

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The CMAA (Crane Manufacturer’s Association of America) is an independent trade association founded in 1955. Companies striving for admission must undergo a thorough application and review process. Member companies represent leaders in the overhead crane industry.

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