According to a recent article in Fortune, “Overall, nonfarm employment in the U.S. is down by 4.2 million, or 2.8%, from its pre-pandemic level. This is according to the latest October figures from the BLS. Others estimate it could be higher. A report from the Peterson Institute for International Economics estimates the U.S. economy is still short 6.2 million jobs. Half of the 11,000 employees recently surveyed by CNBC in October reported their companies are understaffed.

It’s no secret that the U.S. is experiencing a labor shortage. You can see it from your local coffee shop to the docks that unload goods and the trucks who deliver them. Recently released mandates regarding COVID-19 vaccines may complicate the situation. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is set to start requiring employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are fully vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 on at least a weekly basis.

The OSHA rule will also require that these employers provide paid time for employees to get vaccinated, and require all unvaccinated workers wear a face mask in the workplace. 

Many are concerned that regulations like this could make a bad employment situation even worse. Will some employees just quit?  No one knows for sure. But if that happens, it would worsen a nationwide staffing shortage.


Labor scarcity is real so what to do about it? At Barnhart we suggest accelerating planning in order to lock down vendors and equipment providers earlier in the process. Allowing contractors time to staff up for projects will reduce the chance that schedules will be delayed due to labor shortages. It will also help mitigate risk by ensuring highly trained personnel are on the job. 

No one can magically predict what will happen with the labor force in 2022. But by looking ahead and making sure your upcoming project needs are covered, you can help weather the potential storm.

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Acronyms are common in the world of rigging and heavy transport.  You’ll often hear PST, SPMT. What does the alphabet soup of acronyms mean?  

A PST is a model of a Goldhofer trailer and generally referred to as a self-propelled trailer.  Yes, the acronym and the description don’t match, but as Goldhofer is a German company, perhaps the acronym works in the German language.   

On the other hand, an SPMT is a more generic term and can stand for both self-propelled modular transporter or self-propelled modular trailer. It moves equipment or objects that are too massive or heavy to trucks to transport.

An SPMT is a workhorse of a vehicle composed of a platform supported by computer controlled axles, usually two across and up twelve axles long. The modular nature of the system allows for unlimited configurations by adding axles (or lines) to the length and width of the trailer. On a project site, you’ll often hear it referred to as a 8-line SPMT, 10-line SMPT etc.  

Barnhart uses an SPMT to move a bridge section in California.

Each axle steers independently, which means it can negotiate difficult or uneven terrain and keep the load level. Maneuverability is a big plus. The SPMT can move forward and backward, sideways, diagonally and even make a 360’ turn. It is an invaluable tool when space is limited. 

As for the self-propelled part, movement is provided by a hydraulic power pack which provides power for steering suspension and drive function. A crew member operates the SPMT with a hand-held remote control panel or from a driver cabin.

SPMTs are used in many industries including power and oil, on plant construction sites, and to remove and replace oversize bridge spans on civil projects. This type of trailer is the leader in moving heavy loads.

But because those loads are so hefty, you don’t want to get behind them.  An SPMT isn’t built for speed, moving at no more than five miles an hour. 

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Tribute to a Fallen Hero

Flags were flying as Corporal Daegan Page came home to Omaha, Nebraska on Friday, Sept. 17 to a hero’s welcome.

It was also his final rest. Cpl. Page was among the 13 service members killed in the suicide bombing at the airbase in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 26. The 23-year-old was a member of the 2nd Battalion Marine Regiment based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Daegan joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from Millard South High School according to a statement from his family. He was raised in Red Oak, Iowa and the Omaha metro area and was a longtime member of the Boy Scouts. Daegan enjoyed playing hockey for Omaha Westside in the Omaha Hockey Club and was a diehard Chicago Blackhawks fan. He loved hunting and spending time outdoors with his dad, as well as being out on the water. An animal lover, he had a soft spot in his heart for dogs.

Homecoming Plans Evolve

The plans for his funeral caught the attention of Jim Nordman, hockey enthusiast and assistant branch manager at Barnhart’s Lincoln branch. A member of the Nebraska Army National Guard for 15 years, he serves as president of the Nebraska Warriors, a nonprofit that uses sports to assist veterans with health and wellbeing.  

To plan Cpl. Page’s homecoming, Nordman worked with Kyle Williams, a fellow hockey enthusiast from Barnhart’s Omaha branch. Williams served in the Army and Iowa National Guard, which included a deployment in Afghanistan. 

An American flag hangs over the roadway.
An American flag hangs over the roadway.

The crew set up a crane at Millard Veterinary Clinic in Omaha, along the route the hearse and funeral procession would follow from Epply Airfield to the Braman Mortuary in Millard. A 15 ft x 25 ft American flag was draped from an EP-182 Barnhart Spreader Bar. Using Omaha’s unit 1632 (LinkBelt 8660 Series 2), they suspended over the roadway the final flag that Cpl. Page travelled under along the route.  

“In Nebraska, we are proud supporters of our Armed Forces and our community,” said Nordman.

Added Williams, “We wanted to honor and show support for Cpl. Page and his family because he made the ultimate sacrifice for serving our country and the people of Afghanistan.” 

The group effort included the Nebraska Warriors, Omaha Police Department, Millard Police Department, Millard Veterinary Clinic, and Barnhart branches from Omaha and Lincoln.

Following the funeral, officers led Page’s motorcade in a procession to Omaha’s National Cemetery.  Some 158 bikers with the Patriot Guard Riders participated in the procession.

Corporal Page was buried with full military honors at Omaha National Cemetery.

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Barnhart started in 1969 with one branch and a handful of loyal customers. Today, there are more than 50 branches across the United States and the customer list has grown accordingly. That’s in part because of attention to customer service and living by some ironclad rules.

Ten Rules of Customer Service

  1. Always provide service safely.
  2.  Always observe the customer’s safety rules and regulations.
  3.  Always be on time.
  4.  Always be courteous.
  5.  Always work overtime when it is requested by the customer.
  6.  Never neglect safety procedures in an attempt to please the customer.
  7.  Never damage equipment in an attempt to please the customer.
  8.  Never dress or act unprofessionally.
  9.  Never refer to the company or its employees in a negative light.
  10. Never forget, it is the customer who pays you.

Many of these rules apply to all companies, whether you’re a small business, a one-person operation or a sizable crane and rigging company. It all boils down to treating the customer with respect and sticking to established procedures.  

When in doubt, remember the 10th rule.

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In the early morning hours on a frigid night in Jan. 2014, the Rose Bowl, a popular entertainment spot in Mason City, IA, caught fire. The bowling alley and restaurant was a local fixture since the 1960s. Presidential and other political hopefuls regularly used it for rallies. But now it was damaged beyond repair.  

For the next seven years the building sat vacant, becoming an eyesore at the entrance of the city.  

Recently, however, the branch was given new life by Barnhart’s Mason City branch. According to an article in the Globe Gazette, the once-dilapidated old building has been converted into an office and garage space.      

Photo credit: Lisa Grouette – Globe Gazette

The site’s transformation wasn’t overnight and the branch considered other locations before settling upon the 2nd Avenue site. According to Branch Manager Dan Ford, who spent time at the Rose Bowl in his younger days, “A lot of vision was needed to build what we currently have now.”

Barnhart did a build-to-suit project with the property owner. The outside was brought up to grade and rocked. The inside space was renovated and now shows little resemblance to the bowling alley that once occupied the space, except for a few lines from the bowling lanes on the cement floor.

Photo credit: Lisa Grouette – Globe Gazette

The project is a win-win for both the city and Barnhart.  

For Mason City, an abandoned building in a prominent location is now occupied. This provides a potential cornerstone for future development. Just as vacant buildings have a negative impact on surrounding areas, revitalized buildings have a positive one.

Barnhart gets a spacious new office with plenty of room for equipment and employees. This includes around 20,000 square feet of inside space and 6.5 acres of outside parking and storage space. The location is also ideal.  

 “This location provides us with room for growth,” says Ford. “Plus, it has easy access to all main state highways and interstates, and still sits in the center of our customer base.”

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Crane and Rigging Plus a Whole Lot More

Barnhart is known for crane and rigging service, but that’s not all we do.  With a 60-plus team of engineers across our 50 branches, you could also call us a planning and engineering company.

These professionals are experts at finding creative solutions to complex problems. Solutions that save you time and money, particularly when they are involved in the early stages of a project.

The next time you need advanced planning and engineering service, consider the crane company.  

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Demonstration Explores Undersea Vehicle Transport

Barnhart was recently part of a demonstration at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) in Southern California involving vehicles that will probe the depths of the ocean.

The demonstration was part of a U.S. Navy project. According to a press release from the Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center, the Navy awarded a fabrication contract to Boeing in 2019 for five extra-large unmanned undersea vehicle prototypes — widely referred to as the Orca XLUUV.

To further the study of XLUUV prototype facilities capabilities on the West Coast, testing was scheduled at NBVC. The goal was to simulate the assembly, transportation and disassembly of the 85-foot-long, 90-ton undersea vehicle.

Photo: Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center video

A conceptual mockup was created to the dimensional specifications of a typical Orca. It comprised two 40-foot ISO containers, which acted as the vehicles’ separate halves. Barnhart was called in to provide the manpower and equipment — including single-propelled modular trailers (SPMTs) and a portable heavy-lift gantry system — to offload and transport the mockup.

The ISO containers were trucked in to NBVC. The Barnhart team offloaded each container from a flatbed truck with 500-ton gantries. The two containers were assembled under the gantries to the full length of the Orca prototype.

The day-long demonstration also included a travel test to ensure that the mock payload had the capability to maneuver through the existing facilities. Once the mock vehicle was fully assembled it was loaded onto two SPMTs. The SPMTs maneuvered the path from the assembly site, in and out of a maintenance building, to the wharf, back to the building and back to the site.

Upon their successful return, the containers were placed in a storage configuration to demonstrate XLUUV prototype dry storage when not in use, and then disassembled using the same equipment designated for the initial mock vehicle assembly.

The Orca XLUUV is among several undersea systems the Navy has been exploring. The first prototype is expected for delivery at NBVC in 2022.

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July 4th: From Happiness to Hot Dogs

The 4th of July is celebrated with fireworks, hot dogs and parades. But what are we celebrating anyway? 

The holiday, also known as Independence Day, was when the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, right? Actually, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by delegates of the thirteen colonies on July 4th, but wasn’t signed until about a month later.

The Declaration of Independence was adopted while the Continental Army was at war with Great Britain. The Revolutionary War had started in 1775 with the Battles of Lexington and Concord.   

The document was a statement that the colonies regarded themselves as thirteen independent sovereign states, no longer under British rule. They had had enough of the British and King George! However, it would still take until 1781 to make that official when the Continental Army defeated the British and forced a surrender at Yorktown, Virginia.

In 1941, the 4th of July became a federal holiday, though it was celebrated in some form since 1777.   

Meaning and Mustard

The most famous passage from the Declaration of Independence contains these words.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Did Thomas Jefferson, who is credited as the main author of the Declaration of Independence, mean an elusive quest for happiness?  It’s open to interpretation. Scholars believe that Jefferson meant the practicing of happiness, not just chasing it. 

There will be lots of that on display at celebrations and cookouts this weekend. And the centerpiece of any 4th Celebration is the hot dog. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans will enjoy 150 million hot dogs on Independence Day. That’s enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. more than five times.

Joey Chestnut accounts for more than his share. He’s the 13-time holder of the Mustard Belt from the annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. The event is held every July 4th at Coney Island. Chestnut ate a record 75 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes at the 2020 contest.

This weekend, whether you’re eating a hot dog or two or more, celebrating your independence or practicing happiness, do it safely.

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Lady Justice Gets a Lift from Barnhart

Barnhart played a part in the recent restoration of a historic Holmes County Courthouse in Millersburg, Ohio. The courthouse, constructed in 1885, was in bad need of repair to restore it to its former glory.

The project involved the removal and replacement of the clock tower façade. A new cupola had to be fabricated. The Lady Justice statue that resided on the second floor balcony for decades also had to be moved.

Photo credit: Kevin Lynch The Daily Record

Midstate Constractors headed up the project with the assistance of Barnhart. They constructed a new cupola around the original steel frame. Several ornamental pieces were fabricated to make them look as close to the originals as possible. This involved the creation of Ionic capitals, columns and decorative cornices. According to a story in local news source, The Daily Record, there was enough copper on the project to make 4,883,200 pennies. 

When it was time to move the pieces to their final destinations, Barnhart’s Canton branch got to work. Using a Grove GMK 6250 crane, crane operator John-Mark Ziegler placed Lady Justice on top of a copper base high on the north side of the main roof. He then raised the copper cupola, which was guided into place by the Midstate crew.

The raising of the cupola attracted numerous spectators and a crew from Cleveland News 5. The project was profiled in the following story

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A project to remove and replace a 1,073,000 pound stator was recently featured in the May issue of American Cranes and Transport. What made this project notable was the precise calculations and testing that went into making the project a success.

The project was scheduled during an outage at a nuclear power plant in New Jersey. But before anything could be done, load tests had to be performed, including one at Barnhart’s Memphis location. 

The Memphis team assembled a Modular Lift Tower (MLT) frame in their branch yard. The test load weight, including support girders, was 1,332,160 pounds or 125% of the lift load. Once the test was completed, Barnhart match marked more than 600 components and transported them to the New Jersey site.

Load Testing using a Modular Lift Tower was performed at Barnhart’s Memphis yard.

At the site, the stator was located on a 47-foot, 7-inch tall pedestal on top of a building. Its replacement was staged outside near the plant dock. Hydraulic gantries would be used to load and unload the new stator.

Barnhart had to match mark and reassemble the testing components. The MLT and a 750-ton hydraulic turntable and slide system were utilized to rotate the stator beneath the lift tower. A hydraulic transporter was used for onsite transport of the existing and replacement stator.   

There was very little room to work in. The Lift Tower was tight between two water tanks, overhead gantry crane bents and a turbine building. There was just one foot of clearance between the turbine building and stator during the lift tower operations. An adjustable rigging link system was used to lower the stator.

There was just one foot of clearance between the stator and surrounding buildings.

Other complicating factors included underground utilities which required shoring as well as matting of the area.  Plus a tropical storm that hit during tower erection, which caused erosion.

According to the customer, the project required more than 50 calculation packages and 70 drawings. But they paid off in a project that was completed safely and without incident.  

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