Next time you pass that highway or building construction project, take a closer look at some of the backhoes, forklifts, or other heavy equipment. It’s more and more likely you’ll see no one at the controls — in fact, there isn’t even a cab for the driver on many new models. I-M-T is an Iowa company that manufactures cranes and other “service vehicles” for use in mining, construction, railroads and other heavy industry, and spokeswoman Jill Schott says more of those vehicles all the time are operated by someone standing outside, on the ground. She says remote-control, or even radio-remote with no tethered line, is not brand-new but continues to grow in popularity though it’s not cheap. Schott says the biggest factor is safety. You push a button on the transmitter, and it sends a signal to the control valve which begins an operation — moving the machine, extending an arm, rotating. The operator of a traditional crane or backhoe is under physical stress and also in a risky place on top of a big piece of equipment, and Schott says though they cost more, machines with the remote controls offer that operator a better view of the worksite, the machine, its load, and the job it’s doing. Schott says the people who actually work the heavy machines quickly realize the advantages of remote-control, primarily for safety.You can stand almost anywhere and position the load. She says anyone who’s worked in a situation where their line of sight is restricted inside a cab realizes the remote control is better. Schott says the popularity of remote-control equipment is growing. It reduces time for a job as the operator can position himself in a place to “work the load.” One client tells her a job that used to take five people now will take three, as some on the ground were needed to grab a hanging load to stabilize and position it, but now the operator himself can do that. She says there will always be humans operating the machines, but like pollution-control devices, the remote controls are becoming more common and accepted. Garner-based I-M-T began in 1961 and has a global distribution network for its heavy equipment.
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