Mayor John Cranley has introduced key changes to the City of Cincinnati’s Municipal Code that, if enacted into law, would significantly impact crane rental companies and other construction companies operating in the area. While the changes have been touted by Mayor Cranley and others as critical to ensure the safety of the public, as well as contractors and employees, others have questioned the need for some of the more onerous new requirements, and some wonder whether ulterior motives underlie the new rules, which could limit competition for larger crane rental outfits.

Onerous New Requirements

If the proposed regulations become law, contractors would be required to register crane activities with Cincinnati’s Department of Buildings and Inspections at least one business day before beginning any project in the city requiring operation of a crane. That process would all but eliminate short-term rentals on an expedited basis. For cranes assembled on-site, a professional engineer would need to review and certify that each crane was installed, erected and placed consistent with applicable OSHA regulations. All cranes would be subject to further inspection by the director of buildings and inspections at its discretion. Among the most burdensome of the new requirements is a rule that cranes operated for more than 20 years could no longer be used within Cincinnati city limits.

Home Cooking?

The new regulations are part of the mayor’s “Building the Middle Class” initiative. Maxim Crane Rental, the largest crane rental company in North America, with its headquarters in Bridgeville, PA, was a leader in the efforts behind drafting the new rules. Frank Bardonaro, president of Maxim, explained in a recent press conference that the new regulations are supposedly focused on “people, not profits.”

At the same time, many other companies and groups feel differently. It was reported by proponents that the regulations are the result of joint task force that included local contractors, owners, industry groups and a local union. However, many of the outfits most impacted by the new regulations were not consulted at all. For example, the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association (SC&RA), an international trade association comprising many members involved in the crane industry, has always opposed a per se rule or “age limit” on cranes, as age is not synonymous with function or safety. The SC&RA also opposes language that would require all signal persons to be certified by OSHA, as well as a provision that would require a professional engineer to certify every on-site crane assembly.

The new regulations also cite the National Commission for Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) as the standard-bearer of the industry, rather than the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), even though ANSI is considered by many to be the leading authority on such matters.

Long + Short of It

It is thought that many of the new regulations are overly restrictive, excessively burdensome, and will unnecessarily increase construction costs. The new regulations might also provide unfair competitive advantages to larger crane rental companies with newer fleets. Even crane rental companies with exemplary safety records could be adversely effected.

The new regulations are expected to be considered by Cincinnati’s City Council in the near future, and (if adopted) could go into effect later this summer. It is unclear whether other cities in Ohio or elsewhere would follow.