Crane company finds wide variety of work

Crane Service Inc. expands its fleet of heavy-hauling cranes, helps power plants retrofit to meet federal haze regulations

James Fenton
At right, Branch manager Vance Thurman talks with his employees Wednesday at a project site located at the San Juan Generating Station Waterflow.

AZTEC — Crane Service Inc. — a rigging, heavy hoisting and heavy hauling rental business — has opened a new location on Aztec Boulevard.

After nearly 20 years in Bloomfield, the company relocated its yard and offices to one four times as big — and much more visible — in Aztec last month, where it is sandwiched between two trailer parks and right next door to the Aztec Municipal School District offices.

Founded in 1960, Crane Service also has locations in Albuquerque and three in Texas — Amarillo, El Paso and Sweetwater.

Sterling Brothers Construction, which occupied the Aztec Boulevard location for nearly 30 years, closed its doors for good last month, according to Aztec city documents.

Chris Martin, marketing coordinator for Crane Service, said the move was one of necessity.

“We wanted a bigger yard space in a population-dense area with more visual exposure,” Martin said. “Aztec also gives us better transportation access to Durango (and) Cortez (both in Colorado), and up into Utah. We feel like this is a great move for us.”

Crane Service’s Aztec yard is located along U.S. Highway 516, or Aztec Boulevard, which leads west to nearby Farmington and the Navajo Nation. The business is also just west of U.S. Highway 550, which winds north to nearby Durango, Colo., and south to Albuquerque.

Crane Service employs approximately 260 employees – branch managers, operators, rigger-oilers, technicians, sales, dispatch and administrative workers – across its five branches, Martin said.

The company stays busy because of the many ways cranes can be used. They are rented by the hour or by the project to many types of businesses in the Four Corners region, Martin said. Crane Service also offers crane repair services 24-hours a day and sells used cranes and other equipment.

Crane operator Scott Brown on Wednesday talks about the controls inside a crane's cabin at a work site at the San Juan Generating Station in Waterflow.

It’s kind of an interesting business, keeping infrastructure going,” Martin said. “We’re talking about (working on) pipelines, power plants, roads, bridges, cell towers.”

The company also added four large-sized cranes — some on wheels called all-terrain cranes, some on rolling tracks called crawlers – growing its Aztec fleet to a total of 15 cranes. The Aztec branch’s 15 cranes have a combined 1,945 tons of lifting capacity.

Vance Thurman, branch manager at the new Aztec location, walked the new yard on Wednesday, showing off only one of the company’s cranes because the other 14 were at job sites throughout the region.

One of the company’s two 300-ton all-terrain cranes rolled out of the Aztec branch early Wednesday on its way south to Lybrook in the San Juan Basin to help install a compressor, set on a skid, at a well site.

Earlier this year, Crane Services moved its telescopic and lattice cranes to San Juan Generating Station and Four Corners Power Plant as the two operations 20 miles west of Farmington retrofit their facilities to meet federal regional haze regulations.

Pahl Shipley – spokesman for Public Service Company of New Mexico, the majority owner at San Juan Generating Station – said Crane Service is working at Unit 4, one of the plant’s stacks.

“Crane Services is currently involved in what is referred to as pre-outage work, which means getting everything done in preparation for the major work which will require Unit 4 to be taken out of service for a short time,” Shipley said in an email. “Crane Services is assisting in the removal of insulation and lagging (sheet metal that covers the insulation) ...  in preparation for the removal of several fans (there).”

Thurman drove to San Juan Generating Station later Wednesday morning to check on his workers’ progress.

One telescopic crane reached up nearly 200 feet in the air to remove lagging on the east side of Unit 4 as a lattice boom crawler crane on the north side of the unit soared almost twice that height. Thurman said he will soon send another crane to work in another area at the plant.

“We’ve been working here for about three months during pre-outage. We’ll start working 24 hours a day on Monday,” Thurman said. “We have a lot going on, there’s no question about that.”

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.

More info

What: Crane Service Inc.

Where: 1202 W. Aztec Blvd. in Aztec

More info: Call 505-632-1100 or go to