Along with the music
In the spotlight: Piano transporters of Griffioen Transport
Not a common sight: a piano attached to a long crane, dangling above the deck of a cruiseship. But it is business as usual for chauffeur Sebastiaan van Hoof (33) and his colleague Jeroen (25). They are accustomed to working with heavy musical instruments. TON Magazine was allowed to to tag along for the day with the men of Griffioen Transport in Bodegraven.
Moving a grand piano
Their truck seems so small compared to the SS Rotterdam. This former cruise ship of the Holland America Line – 228 meters long and 61 meters high – is riveted on the quay. The ship is now being used as hotel, restaurant and conference centre. Today Sebastiaan and Jeroen are here to move a grand piano from one deck to another. This can be done by using the stairs, but it is much faster with help of their truck with mobile crane.
Sebastiaan van Hoof from the town Alphen aan den Rijn has been working with Griffioen since highschool. Now, 16 years later, he hasn’t regretted a single day choosing to work in the piano transportation business. He has no intentions to ever do something else. “The variety, the driving, manouvring the crane, sorting out things….I love it all.”
Co-driver Jeroen Olsthoorn from the town Bodegraven has been working for seven years at Griffioen. He started as a trainee and stayed on. He too feels completely at ease between the pianos. When you ask him where he will be in ten years, he will answer “Hopefully I will still be working here.”
Not very heavy
Sebastiaan drives one of the three trucks with mobile cranes that Griffioen Transport owns. The mobile crane has been drawn out to 21 meters long. A flat of 7 floors can be reached with this length. The crane lifts a maximum of 500 kilograms. This is sufficient for most pianos which usually weigh a few hundred kilograms. Is it heavy work? Sebastiaan replies, “It’s not so bad. Considering the entire day, it is not heavy work. The only tough part is when you have to lift the piano. But we have been trained for that. You have to make yourself strong against the piano. It is not a shopping basket you are lifting up.”
The men of Griffioen Transport drive through the entire country but also drive internationally. They pick-up pianos from importers to deliver them at piano businesses and private customers. In time Sebastiaan has acquired some piano knowledge. “I am a curious person, I think it is interesting to know a bit more about it. And I want to deliver service by making sure the customer can immediately play the piano after we have put it into place.”
To be able to move the grand piano (a Yamaha C7, 2.27 metres long) from one deck to another, the mobile crane has to be completely extended.
Give it a push
One of the moments that the work can be heavy: manoeuvring the grand piano. Sebastiaan: “You have to give it a push up.” Jeroen puts it into perspective: “You don’t lift the entire weight, just a part of it.”
A couple of hundred kilograms hanging on a crane. This should not snap. Sebastiaan and Jeroen create, with a ratchet and strap, something that looks like small pants for the piano. They strap it three times around the piano, just to be sure.
“I always properly introduce myself and shake hands with the customer.” says Sebastiaan. One of the most attractive parts of the job is the contact with the customers. Jeroen: “You visit many people’s homes and make them happy with what they bought.” This lady in Kwintsheul – owner of a snack bar – bought a piano for her daughter. The piano cannot be transported through the business, so we have to hoist it to the first floor.
The window has to be removed. With private customers circumstances can often be complicated. Sebastiaan: “The office usually checks the situation with the customer. If something needs to be checked, we first visit the customer to analyse the situation.”
“People are always nervous” according to Sebastiaan. A brand new piano can be quite expensive. But also an older piano that needs to be moved, can be priceless due to emotional value. When the piano is set-up, Jeroen and Sebastiaan take a picture with the happy pianist. “The lady asked us for a picture”, Jeroen says kindly.
Sebastiaan sets up the navigation. He doesn’t have too much clutter in the truck. “I kind of like the little curtains. And we have a good radio, with a powerful sound. Perfect for party music on a Friday afternoon when we are heading home.”
Photo’s: Marco Hofsté
Text: TON magazine