New product concepts enable crews to work smarter, not harder
Written by: Joe Caywood, Director of Marketing, Terex Utilities, Watertown, South Dakota
The secret to being successful on any jobsite is to equip crews with equipment that will help them work safer, smarter, more efficiently and more profitably. In the telecom and utility construction industry, a utility truck — whether an aerial device, such as a bucket truck, or a digger derrick — is critical to a utility crew’s productivity. But just as important as the utility trucks are the work practices utility contractors have in place to protect people and equipment from the hazards of working around electricity.
Work practices enable utility crews to focus on getting jobsite tasks done as efficiently, effectively and as safely as possible. The fundamentals of today’s work practices consider safety and accident prevention, asset utilization strategy and life cycle planning, jobsite management, field operations, the truck’s technologies, equipment upkeep and maintenance, as well as emergency operations and responsiveness. Utility crews also implement work practices that allow them to comply with industry standards set forth by OSHA and ANSI.
Providing utility companies and contractors with equipment that not only improves operations but also improves or maintains current work practices is the goal of every utility industry equipment manufacturer and supplier. To deliver the right equipment solutions to match real-world applications, utility equipment manufacturers/suppliers over the years have focused on introducing and promoting products with rapid-response capabilities in the market. Significant improvements in ownership and operating costs, as well as utilization, of utility trucks have been made in the past decade by manufacturers/suppliers working directly with fleet managers and other operations-based stakeholders to better understand how the equipment is used. By engaging fleet managers in the development process manufacturers/suppliers, including Terex, have been not only able to develop innovative product concepts, but have also been able to help fleet managers incorporate these concepts and improve the crews’ everyday work practices.
This approach has already been used in several utility truck product designs and service offerings available in the industry today. Customer-centric innovations that many are already familiar with include the use of hybrid technology, as well as the recent changes for right-sizing equipment, like digger derricks. Also through this approach, ideas for new products that will help utility crews work smarter, not harder, have begun to evolve. Two new concepts available in the market being utilized by utility crews are products for working on slopes and around utility poles.
Working on Slopes
Because the world is not flat, working on a slope is reality on many jobsites. It is a fleet manager’s job to make sure these crews are set up with equipment that can successfully work on an incline without compromising the crew’s safety or productivity.
Bucket trucks should be operated on firm, flat surfaces and stay within a 5-degree slope. For Orange and Rockland Utilities, who operate in the mountainous Hudson Valley area, setting up at a maximum of 5 degrees really limited their crews’ ability to service customers in their operations area (which includes parts of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania). They needed to be able to work on inclines that often exceed 5°. They approached several industry suppliers with this business challenge and asked them to develop a product to fill the void in the market
“We needed a solution that was centered around our specific need — to be able to work on slopes in our operations area that can be as great as 18 degrees or more,” said Scott Braghirol, Central Field Services, Senior Specialist of Transportation Operations, for Orange and Rockland Utilities based in Spring Valley, N.Y. “We hosted on-site visits so that product engineers could better understand our need and work with us to find a solution that would not only accommodate the industry standard, but also our specific applications and work practices.”
From this request, a tilting pedestal system for aerial utility trucks was developed to help crews when working on slopes exceeding 5 degrees. This system allows for operation on slopes of up to 20 degrees to accommodate the need for real-world truck positioning, while decreasing both stress on the rotation gearbox when rotating “up the hill” and reduces the time needed to crib or dig out for the outriggers. Utility trucks equipped with a tilting pedestal system allows operators to save time during the set-up process by being able to position the truck on sloped terrain.
Other benefits of a tilting pedestal system include keeping the work platform level throughout the entire 360-degrees of operation, boosting productivity and creating less fatigue for the operator having to maintain balance while in the platform. The bottom of the bucket, where the operator stands, is level so that operators are not standing at a “sidehill” angle. The aerial utility truck is also able to operate within its designed configuration and the cylinders used in the pedestal are rated to independently support the rated load. Also, there are no capacity reductions with the tilting pedestal system when using the material handling jib.
Braghirol, his truck committees and the Central Field Services Automotive Engineering Group were an integral part of the development process for the Terex® tilting pedestal system — testing, providing feedback and validating the product throughout the entire process. In addition to being able to complete jobsite tasks on inclines, another major advantage of the tilting pedestal system they noted was that it reduced the amount of stress on their operators. “With the tilting pedestal system, our operators are less fatigued because it is like they are working on flat ground,” says Braghirol.
Today, Orange and Rockland Utilities currently has multiple Terex Hi-Ranger HR 52 overcenter aerial devices equipped with the Terex Tru-Level™ Tilting Pedestal System, and they plan to add additional units in the future. “A product like the tilting pedestal system not only creates better working conditions for our crews,” says Braghirol, “but it saves us time and money because we have the right equipment in our fleet to complete the majority of our jobsite tasks.”
Working around Utility Poles
Another tool fleet managers should consider for their aerial utility trucks is an option to increase the boom’s range of motion. This type of option is designed with an additional platform arm that rotates up to 215 degrees, in addition to the 180-degree platform rotator, making it possible for operators to reach both sides of the utility pole without having to re-position the truck — thus expanding the truck’s work area and increased access from one truck set-up. Also, a platform lifter option enables operators to raise and lower the bucket for additional height.
With 32 years of working experience in the utility industry, Roger Agge, a retired lineman from Consumer’s Energy in Jackson, Mich., was one of the first people to demo the new option from Terex. From a user’s viewpoint, Agge noted that with the material handling jib rotated out of the way, making it much easier for him to reach around the utility pole to complete a task, like changing out multiple transformers, because all he had to do was swing the bucket around and continue working. “By being able to rotate the swing arm plus rotate the bucket, this ‘swing arm’ literally wraps around the utility pole, allowing crews to work from the bucket within their reach and do all the jobs at the top of the pole. In other words, this option allows operators to work within the entire range of the aerial device’s work zone,” says Agge.
This new capability was specifically designed to improve jobsite efficiency, as well as deliver more productivity to line crews, because they can work both sides of the pole from one truck position. By focusing on the number of times operators have to go up and down, as well as the number of times they have to reposition the truck. It became apparent to product engineers where the opportunities were to improve jobsite efficiency.
This option also improves the equipment owners’ return on investment because it can reduce some jobs that would normally require two trucks possibly down to one. If fleet managers can reduce the number of linemen and equipment at each jobsite, as well as reduce the number of times crew members have to position and reposition their trucks to complete a job, that translates to less operational costs impacting the bottom line and more productively to accomplish the work that needs to get done.
“This is a radical change from the way line crews are used to working,” says Agge, who had the opportunity to get in and try out the Terex swing arm option several times during the research and development phase and was able to provide feedback on the many advantages of this truck option. “Change can be hard to accept, particularly when it requires adaptation of new work practices, but once operators test this new option out, it will be hard for them to go back to the old way of working around utility poles,” concludes Agge.
As industry providers, like Terex, continue to solicit customers’ feedback and opinions on equipment innovations, a better understanding of what linemen and fleet managers truly need is gained. It also allows these providers to develop better solutions to meet those needs. To be valuable to fleet managers, each and every equipment innovation must be focused on improving jobsite performance, saving on operational costs and delivering a real return on investment.
Terex Corporation is a lifting and material handling solutions company reporting in five business segments: Aerial Work Platforms, Construction, Cranes, Material Handling & Port Solutions and Materials Processing. Terex manufactures a broad range of equipment serving customers in various industries, including the construction, infrastructure, manufacturing, shipping, transportation, refining, energy, utility, quarrying and mining industries.