As soon as the doors opened to the exhibit hall, linemen and their families flooded the trade show floor, looking for the latest tools and technologies in the line industry.
For example, Nelson Smith, a 43-year veteran journeyman lineman from Mecklenberg Electric Cooperative, said many of his Virginia utility’s tools were originally discovered at regional rodeos and the International Lineman’s Expo.
“We saw what other companies were using and what was available, and we convinced our management to invest in the tools and try new technology,” Smith recalled. “A lot of our equipment has really progressed over the last three years and a lot of that started with the expo.”
More than 125 exhibitors spanning seven rows offered everything from the latest in flame-retardant (FR) clothing, to personal protective equipment, to hand tools and other specialized products and services.
The Latest Innovations
Tyndale displayed its new Insect Guard garments, which stun and kill insects on contact. Originally developed by the military, the insect-proof treatment stays on the shirts and pants for up to 50 washes. Because linemen often work at high elevations in hot, humid climates, many used to spray their garments with DEET. However, because DEET is flammable, it could counteract the benefit of FR clothing. With the new Insect Guard treatment, linemen can wear clothing that is both flame-resistant and insect-resistant.
On the FR clothing front, other manufacturers also offered innovations. For example, Ariat now has FR clothing specifically designed for women, and DragonWear sells high-visibility, long-sleeved neon yellow shirts. That way, linemen who work in warmer climates do not have to layer a high-visibility vest on top of a long-sleeved FR shirt, which can be hot and uncomfortable, according to the vendor.
In addition, vendors showcased power and hand tools, many of which stemmed from recommendations they received from linemen. For example, linemen often struggle with removing staples on wood poles. To solve this problem, MADI offered a hammer with a built-in staple puller as well as a screwdriver with a reinforced handle and a pronged end.
As far as power tools, Sherman+Reilly unveiled a new line of crimpers and cutters with an upgraded battery and a built-in LED light. Milwaukee Tool Corp. also offered its signature line of battery-operated tools for linemen and, in its booth near the entrance of the hall, linemen could try out the tools on demo wood poles.
Prize Drawings and Raffles
Throughout the show floor, linemen also had the opportunity to enter prize drawings and raffles. For example, Snap-On Tools donated a rolling storage cabinet with a custom-designed wrap featuring the American flag and a lineman working off a pole in a storm. The proceeds from the raffle of the tool chest — $10,114 — were donated directly to the Lineman’s Scholarship Fund.
The linemen could buy one chance for $15, four for $50 and 10 for $100. If they bought $100 or more in chances, they received a Snap-On Tools ratcheting screw set.
Attendees also had the opportunity to enter a drawing for a Polaris Ranger utility vehicle. Six sponsors, including Hastings, Ameren, ASU Workwear, IFD, Mount Vernon and Whelen, stamped the entrants’ cards at their booths on the trade show floor, and the winner — Terry G. Phillips of CenterPoint Energy — was drawn on the second day of the expo.
Also, T&D World’s Electric Utility Operations section partnered with Milwaukee Tool Corp. to give away $550 of tools, including Milwaukee 9-inch Lineman’s Pliers, 6-in-1 Lineman’s Pliers and the M18 FUEL 7/16-inch Hex High Torque Impact Wrench Kit. Out of the nearly 200 entries, Joe Howard, a lineman foreman for JEA, won the prize drawing.
Along with entering prize drawings, linemen also could stop by the Hubbell Power Systems booth to get free tickets to the screening of “Storm Soldiers 2.” The production team rented out a local theater at Cinetopia to provide two special hour-long cuts of the documentary, which focused on the personal lives of linemen and the effect of their jobs on spouses and families. The team traveled from Hawaii to Montana to shoot the movie, which is now about 75% complete, said Jim Stone, an executive producer for Tytan Creates.
In addition to getting tickets to the documentary, linemen also browsed the exhibits on the trade show floor to learn what was new in the industry. Ben Rodriguez, a line patrol mechanic for the LADWP, said he enjoys attending the Lineman’s Expo.
“Seeing all the new tools and equipment at the expo is one of the highlights besides the competition,” Rodriguez said. “It’s always great when you can go back to your company, and when new tools come out, you already have a head start because you have seen them before and know how to operate them.”
Editor’s note: To see a photo gallery and video clips from the 2015 International Lineman’s Expo, visit http://tdworld.com/electric-utility-operations.