Ask an Arborist: Travis Vickerson

Recently at Cranes101, we were fortunate to have arboriculture extraordinaire Travis Vickerson come by to give trainings and work on upcoming classes here on site. While he’s been with us, he was generous enough to answer a few questions to share with all of you.

Here’s a little bio on Travis:  

“ISA Certified Arborist, TCIA CTSP, TCIA Crew Leader Qualified, 17 years of arboriculture experience, Technical Rope Rescue Technician for 12 years and FEMA qualified Heavy Equipment Rigging Specialist (Cranes) for 10 years.  With a background in adult education methodology and training the adult learner, he has combined passion for safety with his ability to teach and instruct. After losing a friend to a climbing accident years ago, he has worked diligently to promote safety through education and training. In his spare time he enjoys traveling and can always be found to have a classic book tucked away in his bag. Enjoys learning all he can from everyone he meets and a huge fan of great food and bourbon.”



  1. If I am a small tree company and I am looking at getting into crane removals, what are some things to take into consideration that would justify the purchase of a crane?


First, they should be looking to rent one and work with that first, then slowly look at purchasing a machine that will fit their geographic service area, weight of logs and material and price point. I personally feel something like the Altec machine or National 45-142 is a great tree boom truck.


  1. Following up to that last question, I’ll have to make sure I have the right people on my crew to use the crane. What kind of qualifications should I be looking for if I need to hire?


The problem here that almost zero employees come to companies with credentials of any kind. What the employer should be doing is getting them basic OTJ training first in safety and safety operations, then get them TCIA tree care academy manuals in this order (chipper operator, chainsaw, ground ops specialist, tree climber(if they are gonna climb) then lastly tree care specialist). A TCIA crane operations specialist is best for any company that owns a crane or works with one on a regular basis. Also an employee needs EHAP, Aerial Rescue and First aid/cpr.


  1. What licensing is required by OSHA for crane work within the tree care industry?


None as long as you’re only lifting organic material, the problem comes in lifting other items such as stump grinders. Once you hook up a stump grinder or even a fake tree for a town Christmas tree you now fall under the ASME and OSHA regulations.


  1. Tree Care companies with cranes are exempt form the standard if they are only moving organic material. What are your thoughts? Should more standards be developed?


There should be a required operator’s license if you are using a crane period!

Licensing isn’t just about being qualified it shows a knowledge level to help prevent incidents. Far too often companies purchase cranes to do tree work and miss the formal knowledge and training aspect and end up having incidents over simple things that training and licensing can teach.

When looking at crane use in arboriculture, what is it that makes this work so dangerous?

Tree care companies are used to working with gravity in lowering tree pieces and even using momentum to make trees do what they need them to, with cranes your working against gravity and want no momentum in your picks. So it’s dangerous because of that shift in how work is done.


  1. 6. Why is crane use in arboriculture unique from every other industry a crane is used?


It’s unique but we are dealing with “live loads” meaning it’s estimated weighs and once attached the crane owns it, it can’t be reattached and reconfigured for another chance at lifting it or rigging it.


  1. How do you feel cranes have impacted the tree care industry over the past few years?


Increased efficiency but also increased frequency of incidents


  1. Do you feel that crane operators in the industry are adequately trained?


No, very few have any formal training; most are learning as they go.


  1. What is the best platform for training  within the tree care industry?


Workshops to get exposure and then hands-on training.


  1. What type of training is currently available for those in the industry for bucket training?


TCIA has an aerial lift specialist but it is only a 4 hr class


  1. Are there slings  and sling uses that are unique to this industry? If so can you elaborate on a few?


There is only one specific tree industry sling and that is the Mark Chisholm crane kit slings. They are dead eye slings made of endura braid dipped for a coating


  1. Where can a company go to get training on special slinging practices that you mentioned earlier?


TCIA best management practices manual.


  1. Tell me a little bit about your upcoming webinar. Who do you think should really tune in? What will participants come away with?


The upcoming webinar is going to be a basic intro to cranes, outrigger support, proper climber attachment and pros and cons of different slings. I think it’s a good webinar for anyone that uses a crane without formal training in the tree care industry.


Travis’s webinar will be hosted on August 28th, 2018, streaming live from Durham, NC! The time is TBA, so stay tuned. We’ll keep you posted.


If you have an arboricultural question you’d like to ask Travis, leave a comment below and maybe we can feature it on a future post!


As always, if you’d like a Cranes101 consultation regarding your arborist or crane crew training needs or simply more information about our services, give us a call at 508-966-4100.


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