Leading the Way in Heavy Lifting & Fleet Management for the Motor City
The JJ Curran Crane Company has worked on some of the biggest construction projects Detroit, Michigan has ever seen, including hockey arenas, oil refineries and casinos. JJ Curran is the leading heavy lifting equipment and crane rental firm in ‘The Motor City’ and a family-owned operation that has been in business nearly seventy years. An affiliate firm called Fleet Cost & Care develops and sells centralized fleet management software used by JJ Curran Crane, and is growing at a rapid pace.
JJ Curran’s inventory includes tower cranes, crawler cranes, rough terrain hydraulic cranes, boom trucks, and material and personnel hoists. Hydraulic boom all-terrain and rough terrain cranes are the company’s specialty. Curran keeps this gear at its strategically placed Detroit headquarters, including a 20,000-square-foot repair facility.
The company has a wide range of clients, including, “general contractors, specialized sub-contractors, refineries, steel mills and other industrial concerns. We do a fair amount of commercial work as well. Our customers are mostly based in Southeast Michigan, but we do service all of Michigan, northern Ohio and Indiana as well,” says Jeff Curran, founder, president and co-owner of Fleet Cost & Care and co-owner and chief financial officer of the JJ Curran Crane Company.
Clients can rent more than just equipment; JJ Curran has a staff of qualified crane operators who can work at clients’ job sites. “We supply fully operated crane rentals. For some of our smaller cranes, we offer a ‘bare rental’ where the customer would supply the operator. We strive to provide a turnkey experience from start to finish, so we prefer to provide all the personnel,” says Curran.
Field engineers also play a key role in JJ Curran’s operations. These staff members help clients determine the best equipment for their projects. “Our field engineers are our boots on the ground. We take care in planning every lift. Some customers do not understand what they need in a crane, and our team is there to make sure we get the right personnel and equipment on the job to ensure a safe and efficient lift,” says Curran.
The company also has a skilled maintenance crew, who keep rental equipment in top shape as well as experienced operating engineers and oilers who operate the cranes in the field.
The firm initially began in 1950, when John “JJ” Curran – the father of Jeff Curran -founded the Dearborn Excavating Company. The company focused on excavation work for basements, water mains and sewers. The first piece of equipment owned by the firm was a second-hand backhoe, purchased by John Curran for excavation duties.
Along the way, Dearborn Excavating acquired a business called the Downriver Crane Company. The latter name was changed to the JJ Curran Crane Company in 1959.
“The roots [of the firm] were in the excavation business. Then it moved into the crane business, then finally fully into the crane business,” recalls Curran.
By 1970, the JJ Curran Crane Company had a fleet of over fifty machines. While the firm grew, it remained a family business. John Curran’s other son, Larry, joined the business full-time in the mid-1970s. Younger son Jeff joined full-time in 1981. In 1988, the brothers took over the firm. Five years later, Jeff Curran founded Fleet Cost & Care.
Additional family members in the business include Larry’s wife Linda Curran, who works as a payroll manager for the crane division, and Jeff’s son Jack Curran, who is director of sales for Fleet Cost & Care.
At present, JJ Curran’s personnel fluctuates “between forty and fifty typically,” says Curran. He is proud that many current workers have family members who worked at JJ Curran in the past. Employees need more than just being certified to industry standards; Curran says “character and work ethic is primary” when he considers hiring new staff.
Employees go through a course called the MUST Safety Program which emphasizes worksite safety awareness. Crane operators need to comply with standards set by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO).
“Two years ago, JJ Curran Crane was part of the team that built the Little Caesars Arena, the new home for the Red Wings.”
JJ Curran Crane has been involved in its share of noteworthy projects. In 1962, for example, the firm partnered with Detroit Red Wings hockey legend Gordie Howe to finance and construct the first indoor public hockey rink in Michigan. The rink was located in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. This was not the company’s only sports connection. In 1979, it worked on Joe Louis Arena, which became the hockey home for the Red Wings.
Two years ago, JJ Curran Crane became part of the team that built the brand new Little Caesars Arena, the new home for the Red Wings. This mammoth project involved the staging and setting of roughly sixty to seventy rooftop units and boilers, some of which were as heavy as 50,000 pounds. A 450-ton all-terrain crane and a 75-ton rough-terrain crane were used for most of the work on this assignment.
Another recent noteworthy project was the rebranding of the Greektown Casino. The company utilized a pair of 120-ton all-terrain cranes, one of which had a ‘man basket’ attached to it. The rebranding efforts for this casino “is an example of how we play a supporting role in a lot of Detroit landmarks,” notes Curran.
The company believes in giving back to the community and is a long-time sponsor of the Detroit Ice Dreams, a non-profit group that teaches hockey and figure skating skills to kids, and the Motor City Hawks, a junior hockey team. The company also supports the American Cancer Society, Scleroderma Foundation, Boy Scouts of America, Huron Little League Baseball and other worthy endeavors.
JJ Curran promotes itself through “advertisements in industry print publications, social media channels and other online advertising,” says Curran.
The company is introducing new products. It has mainly been known as a “specialist in hydraulic crane supply. Now we’re bringing other lines of equipment to the market, like tower cranes, material hoists, crawler cranes. Our team has been retooled with experts in these areas,” says Curran.
“I see steady growth in the crane business,” he states, speaking of the company’s place in five years. “We might possibly have more depots, possibly more equipment and be serving bigger types of markets and a wider array of markets. I see a bigger company with possibly more locations and larger equipment capability.”
Fleet Cost & Care is JJ Curran Crane Company’s fast-growing affiliate firm. FCC’s products help clients streamline fleet operations from start to finish while reducing costs, enhancing safety and boosting efficiency, productivity and revenue. FCC has clients in five different countries but most customers are based in the United States.
“Fleet Cost & Care develops and sells vertical software to manage fleets of equipment. We offer NexGen, a desktop platform, and Atom, a mobile app for fleet management. We do a great deal of consulting in addition to selling and supporting our software,” states Jeff Curran, Fleet Cost & Care founder, president and co-owner.
NexGen software can streamline invoice and payroll operations, automate revenue reporting, manage personnel and equipment scheduling and keep track of when equipment requires maintenance. Atom can be used by anyone in the field with a tablet, smartphone or other mobile device. Among other tasks, Atom can be used to generate work orders and quotes, assign jobs, input work-related information like labor hours and capture electronic signatures.
“Our customers are generally companies with fleets of heavy equipment,” states Curran. This includes construction, crane and heavy equipment rentals firms.
Putting its money where its mouth is, the JJ Curran Crane Company utilizes NexGen fleet management software to track engine hours and mileage on its rental fleet of cranes. This makes it easier for company officials to know when equipment requires maintenance. JJ Curran uses NexGen and Atom for all its fleet’s operational needs to not only increase performance, but also to serve as a place to develop fleet management best practices for FCC’s customers and the industry.
Curran developed the idea for FCC in the mid-1980s. His dream was to create a centralized software system that would allow fleet owners to save costs and optimize performance. It took a while for technology to catch up, however, before this vision could be turned into a practical reality. Fleet Cost & Care was officially founded in 1993, around the time the user-friendly Windows operating system came to the forefront. Three years later, FCC launched its first fleet management system, with a focus on invoicing, scheduling and preventative maintenance. In 2007, the second generation of the company’s software -now called NexGen – was released.
At present, thirty-six people worldwide work for Fleet Cost & Care, in regional offices across North America and one in India. The firm is headquartered in Detroit.
By offering status updates on preventative maintenance deadlines, FCC software can help companies improve safety records. In turn, this can mean lower insurance costs. The system can also assist clients meet electronic logging device (ELD) compliance regulations. ELDs are attached to work vehicle engines to log driving hours and are designed to see if drivers are putting in too many work hours. Data from these devices can be accessed by fleet management software systems and used to inform business decisions. Federal regulators in the U.S. have imposed mandatory ELD compliance requirements on companies beginning in December of 2017.
“We’re more than a software development company. We’re a full technology partner and we serve as a resource to the industry,” says Curran.
The future looks very bright. “We’re poised for growth. I think Fleet Cost & Care is positioned to grow enormously and quickly. One of the reasons we’re poised for such growth is the people that we hire have a lot of industry experience and have worked for some of the best and brightest equipment rental firms throughout the world,” he states.
Written by Nate Hendley