Transmission time

10 April 2008

The October ICUEE show attracted 17950 visitors, a 9.5% increase on the previous show in 2005. Altho

The October ICUEE show attracted 17950 visitors, a 9.5% increase on the previous show in 2005. Although battered by some heavy rainfall and a big storm at the end of the final day, exhibitors were gen

It seems that current talk among North American utility companies is investment in new transmission lines. One of the largest, US-based American Electric Power (AEP), has even mooted a new 19000 mile (30600 km) national interstate transmission grid as a kind of electrical equivalent to the interstate highways.

That US$60 billion project may still be a pipe dream, but the levels of investment in high voltage power lines was clearly reflected at ICUEE with many of the utility lift manufacturers showing higher reach, insulated models, including Posi-Plus, Terex Utilities, Lift-All and Bronto Skylift.

Bronto specializes in such machines, of course, and at ICUEE had its largest outreach machine yet for the North American market – the 170 ft (51.8 m) platform height, 115 ft (35 m) outreach S-170 XDT, mounted on a 8x6 International chassis.

The first customer for the unit is Hinkel Equipment Rental Associates, based in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. The company has a rental fleet of 10 Bronto machines and its customers are 90% in the transmission line business.

Demand for his fleet is looking good, says Mark Hinkel, president and owner; “If we can believe all the projects being scheduled, there's probably enough work to keep the machines rented for a few years.”

On the new Bronto machine, he tells AI; “The real beauty of the 170 is its ability to travel through most US states without securing a travel permit – and on the East coast we are 100% legal.” He says he will likely add other machines to his fleet, and said he was “very tempted” to add a large track mounted unit in next couple of years.

The investment in bigger machines is also resulting in some quite special units being engineered. One example is a 150 ft (45.7 m) platform height Bronto unit on tracks that is currently being built for Hydro One in Ontario. Crawler vehicle specialist Track Industries in Calgary, Canada, is building a massive 50000 lb (22.7 t) payload capacity crawler chassis, the HT500, which will be shipped to Ontario where engineering company Hycotec Inc will mount the Bronto boom.

Garth Johnson, president and owner of Track Industries, tells AI that it will be the company's biggest tracked carrier ever and possibly the largest highest aerial platform mounted on crawlers. The machine is due for delivery in April or May 2008.

Terex transmission

Terex Utilities is also making product additions to suit the transmission line business. Terry VanConant, the company's manager, marketing and sales support, says its new Hi-Ranger TM85 and TM125 models, with platform heights of 85 ft (26 m) and 125 ft (38 m), respectively, are designed for this sector of the market and are insulated up to 765 kVA.

The TM125 has a 52 ft (15.8 m) maximum outreach and has a hydraulic platform leveling system. The 125 unit on show at ICUEE had been bought by Indiana Michigan Power. (Terex Utilities still also sells the TM167, which uses a boom built by CTE (Bizzocchi) in Italy.)

Lift-All, meanwhile, has introduced its biggest elevator lift yet, with the LAN HD75/110, comprising a base 75 ft (23 m) platform height unit that becomes a 110 ft (33.5 m) platform height model with the addition of an articulating elevator section. This machine incorporates a 2300 lb (1044 kg) material handling jib and is rated for live line work up to 500 kVA. Tandem rear axles make it road legal for the US.

Like Lift-All, Canada's Posi-Plus Technologies has added a double lift elevator mechanism at the base to increase the reach height of its 68 ft (20.7 m) unit, transforming it into a 83 ft (25.3 m) platform height model that the company says will make it suitable for transmission line work. The platform – the first of which has been sold to Hydro One Brampton – has two buckets, both of which have full controls.

Altec Industries is the giant of the US utility platform sector and although not launching any new utility aerial platforms at this year's ICUEE still made a big splash with the largest stand and the most machines on show (including cranes, utility lifts, digger derricks, brush chippers and small crawler mounted aerials). The company is investing more in the European market and is also promoting its new hybrid drive units.

Of course, not all the activity was focused on the larger machines. Dur-A-Lift, for example, introduced a new 32 ft (9.7 m) unit designed for sign installation companies (see photo story) and Time Manufacturing's main focus was on an important new family of VST models – 14 units in all – with platform heights of between 36 ft and 55 ft (11 –16.7 m).

The new range is of modular design – making them easier and less expensive to manufacture – and also bring some new features. For one thing, the old VST range only went up to 40 ft (12.2 m), so all the +40 ft machines are new. The range also now offers customers the option of side-mounted baskets (they were always top mounted in the past). Boom extensions now use a single cylinder rather than a chain and cylinder as in the past. This frees up space in the boom for wires and controls.

The range comprises four base models with a number of variations – insulated or non-insulated, different boom tip options, and there will be a full range of fly-jib versions next year – something that will be popular in Europe. They also use lower weight, higher strength steels than previous VSTs, which means that the whole range has been kept on under 7.5 t GVW vehicles.

Time hasn't been standing still on its larger Condor machines, however. It has installed new OEM Controls on its 103 ft 6 in (31.5 m) working height Condor CTA-104-I model. These give the operator much more information in the basket (boom angles, for example) and also provides for easier on-board diagnostics. The same technology is likely to be introduced on a CTA-130 model next year, which will replace the CTA-125. Like other manufacturers, Time is optimistic about market conditions. “The market is strong”, says Kent Upton, the company's director of distribution sales, “Indications right now are that we will have a good 2008.” If the market is optimistic just now, there is no telling how it could look in 2009 when the next ICUEE show takes place. Perhaps by then the concept of an interstate transmission network will have become more than an eye-catching idea. That's what the lift manufacturers will be hoping.

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