Northern Powergrid, the company responsible for the electricity network that keeps the lights on for 8 million people across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, has invested £268,000 in a world-class, environmentally friendlier, off-road vehicle to help keep the power flowing for its customers.
The electricity distributor has introduced to its specialist fleet a state-of-the-art Mercedes Benz Unimog U530 – and it is the world’s first U530 to include a Versalift (VOE36MHi Cat C) platform.
The Unimog U530 is one of the most versatile off road HGVs on the market. This means Northern Powergrid’s teams will be able to access overhead line networks located in the most difficult terrain more easily to carry out overhead line construction work or emergency repairs to restore electricity for customers should a power line become damaged or develop a fault.
The vehicle, which meets stringent Euro 6 environment and CO2 emissions standards, includes a unique Central Tyre Inflation system (CTI). The CTI system enables all tyre pressures to be lowered by the driver from the cab while the vehicle is moving. This increases the tyre ‘footprint’ by 100%, which doubles the surface area, supporting the weight of the vehicle whilst increasing its traction on soft ground. It also allows the Unimog to cross fields without damaging farmers’ land or crops making it better for the environment and landowners.
The vehicle’s Versalift platform provides insulation up to 46,000 volts for Northern Powergrid’s hot glove linesmen, has an increased lifting capacity and boasts a 360 degree rotating twin bucket. This enables Northern Powergrid’s hot glove teams, who work on live electricity lines to prevent disruption to customers’ supplies, to move safely around power lines and complete line construction, maintenance and repairs on the region’s overhead power network. The platform’s additional lifting capacity also means it is capable of installing pole mounted apparatus up to 670kg enabling the teams to carry out jobs which previously would have required customers to have a planned power cut.
Recognising the importance of the vehicle to its employees, fleet and overall customer service, Northern Powergrid involved its hot glove linesmen in the design. Working with the vehicle supplier and body builder from the initial concept, they were able to ensure it was fit for purpose and meets the needs of those using it every day. Members of Northern Powergrid’s Transport Committee were also involved ensuring the necessary road safety legislation was obtained for this vehicle type.
The electricity distributer also held a special training day for its hot glove linesmen to help familiarise them with the vehicle’s significant off-road capabilities and unique operating modes of the insulated boom by practicing operations on overhead lines at its Swillington training centre. As part of the day instructors from Mercedes Benz provided 1:1 tuition to the linesmen, ensuring that they fully understood the operating window of this vehicle.
Alistair Walton, a zone manager at Northern Powergrid, said: “We have made a significant investment in this vehicle and it will play an important role in helping our hot glove teams work more effectively and safely and provide a 10 out 10 service for our customers.
“The state-of-the-art features on the vehicle and its lifting platform empowers our teams to carry out work without having to disrupt electricity supplies for our customers and we can get to harder to reach areas on our network whilst minimising the impact on the environment.
“Our teams are very impressed with the vehicle. They were also proud to play a part in bringing it to fruition and making Northern Powergrid the first UK distribution network operator - and company in the world - to have this type of vehicle in its fleet.”
The vehicle is currently based in Northern Powergrid’s operations covering northern Lincolnshire and the company is looking to invest in further vehicles of this type in 2017/18 as it continuely reviews the specialist vehicle options on the market.
To find out more about the benefits of Northern Powergrid’s investment watch a short film taken during the training day at Swillington by visiting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGBBpxjKvJU