On the Right Track
EnergyLines March 2018
Track-based bucket vehicles provide broader access to right-of-ways for power delivery crews
Daily obstacles for many at Hoosier Energy don’t consist of mud and ravines. But for the power delivery team, these aspects can really be cumbersome. Increasingly, crews were being challenged to safely maneuver bucket trucks into position at job sites.
The power delivery team researched ways to get the job done safely as difficult situations arose. The team determined that in water-soaked environments, replacing a bucket truck with one on tracks, similar to a tank, gives them the ability to drive through wet and muddy terrain with almost no visible property damage.
“Track units allow us to address maintenance and breakdown needs on the transmission system in a timely way,” said Brady Mann, Manager of Delivery Services. “It is truly amazing to see – financial, environmental, and relationship benefits can be tied to the tracked units,” continued Mann.
Bucket trucks equipped with standard tires often get stuck in mud. A bucket truck loaded with equipment can weigh nearly 60,000 pounds. When that weight is distributed across 10 tires, there is a significant amount of pressure placed onto the ground. The result is a truck stuck in the mud.
One solution is to use a winch to pull the trucks out of the mud. When that is unsuccessful, another option is to hook a bulldozer to the front to the truck and drag it out of the mud. This increases costs and damages property, which must be repaired.
Tracked vehicles have a much larger area on the ground to distribute weight. They don’t sink in mud. Mann compares it to trying to walk across fresh snow in a snow shoe (the track unit) versus high heels (bucket truck).
“Rubber-tracked machines reduce our operational cost and increase efficiency by minimizing travel down blacktop roads without requiring us to protect the road or load the machine onto a trailer,” said Mann.
The track vehicles were used last year for a line upgrade to the Abydel substation in Orange County. The tracks enabled the crew to complete the project without a single contractor to move equipment around the job site. Without the tracked vehicles, the contractor would have been needed each day of a multi-month project at a minimum of $250 per hour.
Because of this equipment investment, Hoosier Energy does not have to depend as much on contractors or dry weather to get into some of the right-of-ways. This allows for more flexible scheduling and as such, a higher degree of efficiency in that scheduling.
Track vehicle Q&A
Why haven’t we done this sooner?
Tracked vehicles have progressed in their capabilities and strength over time. Most of the units available in the past were either too small, designed for distribution work, or too large, designed for 345kV work and above.
How much are we saving?
From a transmission perspective, a simple three-day project that would require a contractor to tow equipment in and out could avoid almost $7,500 in just one three-day project.
Are the machines more expensive to maintain?
Other than the tracking unit itself, the equipment on the machine, such as the bucket and the digger, are the same as those on standard bucket trucks.