In business, bigger is often better, especially when it comes to the ability to safely haul oversized objects such as gigantic electrical transformers. Few realize this better than Duffy Crane & Hauling. The company was founded in 1886 in Denver and is one of oldest companies in the western state of Colorado and one of the top 120 continuously operating, privately held companies in the United States. The business has come a long way since the days of using horse-drawn covered wagons to transport items from one location to another…
Duffy has made a considerable investment in specialized equipment and machinery and remains Denver’s premier crane and hauling service company. Where some businesses are unwilling or unable to take on big challenges, Duffy Crane & Hauling addresses them head-on. The company was purchased by President Jeffrey L. Cummings in 2004. It had a staff of thirty full-time employees at the time and has grown to eighty-five, with plans for further expansion.
“We are Colorado-centric, but with our specialty work in our hauling division, we will go through every state except California this year,” says Cummings. His background encompasses over three decades of industry-related experience as a certified public accountant, executive, industry leader, and chief financial officer at a multi-state workers’ compensation insurance company. “We will haul things that are oversized and overweight and sometimes extremely oversized and overweight.”
Being dedicated to helping clients achieve their goals requires not only heavy machinery but highly trained staff committed to the safety of every project. The company has roots in transportation, and about half of Duffy’s employees today are commercial drivers, certified forklift operators, and riggers, with the remaining half working in the company’s crane department as certified crane operators. Many of the company’s dedicated employees have been with Duffy for a decade or more, and have fifteen-plus years of industry experience; in fact, some are second and third-generation Duffy employees.
Duffy takes on both immense projects planned weeks or even months in advance as well as emergency on-call work. In some cases, the company has been called into urgent situations in the middle of the night where a plane has skidded off a runway and needed to be moved as soon as possible for the safe operation of the airport to continue. This is where the company’s decades of experience, highly qualified crew members, and specialized equipment comes into play.
The company has a fleet of well-maintained hydraulic truck cranes, boom trucks, all terrain, and rough terrain cranes available. Duffy also provides operated/maintained and bare crane rental units (the unit is rented by itself, without an operator) for some of its rough terrain cranes.
It works closely with customers to provide reliable, quality, and cost-effective crane and hauling services and has earned an industry-wide name for serving the needs of its many clients within the greater Rocky Mountain region and beyond. The process starts with competitive rates and free estimates.
Duffy provides a comprehensive range of lifting, transport, and moving services to industry and businesses. These include moving entire industrial plants, relocating and setting transformers, and turbines and blades used in the wind power generation sector, moving boilers up to 500,000 pounds, setting air-conditioning units on high-rise buildings, emergency transportation, and more.
At Duffy Crane & Hauling, “no load is too big, too heavy or too critical for to transport and set both safely and cost effectively,” says the company. It possesses the expertise required to move and transport any oversized or heavyweight machinery and components. Duffy uses equipment such as a four-hundred-ton crane, high-capacity lowboys, jeeps, expandable trailers, and even “a specially designed beam and dolly system with independent steering and suspension,” often used with a two-hundred-ton hydraulic gantry system, to inch loads into the exact place.
All operators are certified with the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, a respected non-profit organization focused on developing effective performance standards for the safe operation of cranes assisting all segments of general industry and construction. The company’s professionally designed and monitored safety and safety training program ensures that no job, small or large, is left to chance.
At Duffy, safety is not a buzzword, but a way of life, woven – and practiced – by staff in their day-to-day activities. These range from documented daily site-specific safety meetings that require the customer’s signature to equipment-specific safety checklists for crane hoisting/rigging and forklifts and identifying, eliminating, or mitigating job site hazards. Through these and other initiatives, the company has earned a reputation as one of the safest in its industry.
Coordinating moves, particularly of transformers, boilers, and other sizeable industrial items require both the right equipment and a particular mindset that only comes with years of experience. When orchestrating a move, in-house staff plan anywhere from two to six weeks in advance. The company also has a specialist responsible for handling out-of-state permits. Regional experts, including logistics companies, will be hired to meet drivers on the road and provide assistance such as pilot cars or bucket trucks or to run routes.
“Frequently, in these types of efforts, you need someone who will pre-run the route, which is called a route survey,” comments Cummings. “Coordinating all that activity, is someone here in our building.”
Moving and hauling is not an off-the-cuff type of business. It requires consistent monitoring, vigilance, and the ability to adapt quickly and respond immediately to changes. Since this is a dynamic industry, windows of opportunity are often very tight. Road conditions change due to construction, weather, and many other factors, so the company cannot take for granted that a route it took just weeks earlier will be identical.
“The most difficult part of the process is getting it permitted,” says Cummings. “It is similar to insurance and other things because every state has its own rules. A legal load is 88,000 pounds, so it doesn’t take a very heavy load to be oversized or overweight and to get a special permit, and those vary almost dramatically from state to state and region to region. So the biggest challenge is getting any oversized, or overweight load permitted not only from the state but sometimes you have to get a county or city involved, depending on how extreme your oversize or overweight load may be. That will be the most difficult logistical problem we run into.”
While seventy to seventy-five percent of what the company hauls is within 150 miles of Denver, Duffy hauls overweight and oversized loads interstate several times a month. One recent project saw it responsible for transporting several huge, transformer-type substation buildings to Miami. Another one, closer to home, was for the addition to the Denver International Airport. This saw the company tackle a new, five-storey tall escalator – the biggest west of the Mississippi. Duffy assumed rigging and installation plans for the project. The project, while extremely sophisticated, demanding, and difficult, was carried out well.
“We are not aware of anyone else who wanted to take it on, but we did, and we are happy to say that if you fly to Denver airport and take mass transit out or in, you will hopefully successfully negotiate five storeys on an escalator, in part, complements of Duffy,” states Cummings.
Duffy Crane & Hauling is always striving to create newer and better solutions, Its ingenuity extends into equipment, and it has built its own dual-lane suspension beam trailer measuring an enormous eighty-seven yards in length (by comparison, an American football field is 120 yards long). The innovative trailer is used to move enormous objects. During a one-month period, several years ago, Duffy was responsible for relocating three, 400,000-pound transformers, a significant and remarkable engineering feat.
Until earlier this year, Jeffrey L. Cummings was chairman of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, which has represented the trucking industry to the government since 1939. Cummings remains on the executive board as a past chairman the organization. He says one of the primary initiatives of the organization is to serve as a catalyst and a leader to help the state, industry, and the public find the right path to transportation funding.
“Out here in the west, in Denver, we have fairly extraordinary congestion and road issues, and we certainly believe we are on the forefront as an organization to try and help the broader community and business community solve the problem,” he says. “The second thing the Motor Carriers does is represent the transportation and logistics industry to the state of Colorado, in the region, on all manner of trucking, transportation, and commercial transportation issues.” One current issue is the use of electronic locking devices as opposed to manual logs.
“The commercial motor vehicle industry is subject to a fairly substantial and wide variety of regulations, and representing the trucking and commercial industry to those regulatory authorities under the current, fairly heavy regulatory environment, is a very busy job of this state association and its constituent members and the board.”
As for Duffy Crane & Hauling, Jeffrey L. Cummings says there are no plans to change the structure of the long-time company. “We are in an age where there tends to be consolidation, and the objective here is to keep this a middle-market, family-run, and family-owned enterprise that represents 130 years of hard work to our business community in the State of Colorado.”