When the clock struck noon, a flood of linemen poured through the doors of the convention center. Some browsed the aisles searching for new tools, while others looked for flame-retardant (FR) garments. All of them, however, had one thing in common — they wanted to discover the latest and greatest products available for linemen.
The 2017 Lineman’s Expo was the biggest trade show yet with 21,000 sq feet of exhibition space and 135 exhibitors. Thirty-three of those exhibitors were new for 2017, giving more than 3500 attendees the opportunity to see a diverse range of products geared at the field workforce.
“It sold out again this year, and there’s no room for expansion,” said Rick Childers, event coordinator for the International Lineman’s Rodeo Association (ILRA). “They had to move things out of the way just to bring the expo stuff in.”
Because time is money in the line trade, linemen need labor-saving tools and technology that can help them to get their jobs done as safely and efficiently as possible. For example, the tool manufacturers offered new cordless, battery-powered tools with an ergonomic design. One of these vendors, UTILCO, launched a new line of hydraulic crimpers and cutters built on the Milwaukee Tool battery platform.
Also, other exhibitors offered technology to help linemen restore power quickly following a storm or power outage. SNC Manufacturing Co. Inc. displayed its new Restore-Lite temporary power restoration unit, which is said to be the lightest unit on the market and is available in a 10-, 15- or 20-kVA rating. Within 20 minutes, a lineman can obtain meter-able power by plugging it directly into a pedestal.
In addition, vendors showcased technology invented by linemen. Utility Solutions’ new Tail Tamer, a four-in-one tool, was invented by a lineman from Ohio. The temporary four-in-one hot line clamp safely controls conductors during construction and maintenance. In addition, the company also demonstrated another product that attracted a lot of attention from the linemen — a take-apart hot stick.
When working in severe weather conditions and around the clock, linemen need technology that will help them to get their jobs done as quickly and safely as possible. As in past years, many manufacturers of FR garments showcased their clothing on the show floor.
Over the years, these FR garments have gotten softer, more lightweight and more comfortable for the linemen to wear on the job. For example, Tara Safe introduced new lightweight button-down shirts in three shades of blue, while True North showcased its new Generation 3 Shield Jacket with reinforced cuffs and a longer length. In addition, the vendor displayed its updated Elements Flak Jacket.
Also over the last few years, linemen have not only had to wear FR garments, but also use arc-flash-rated harnesses when working aloft. Jelco set up a wood pole in its booth so linemen could try out its new products, such as its new arc-flash harnesses with die-electric quick-connects.
A glove manufacturer — Youngstown Glove Co. — also showcased its new products, including its FR rain glove, which repels water and keeps linemen’s hands dry in damp conditions. The company also introduced its Knuckle Buster glove, which features FR gel so the vibration goes into the lineman’s glove, not his or her hand.
With the hurricane season barely in the rearview mirror, the swarms of mosquitos are still fresh in linemen’s minds. To keep them protected in future storms, R&R Lotion offered DEET-free, industrial-strength mosquito repellent that won’t damage the integrity of flame-retardant clothing or linemen’s gloves.
Linemen battle the elements and also face the danger of distracted drivers crashing into work zones. To help protect workers on highways, PSS introduced the Road Quake rumble strips, which are designed to alert drivers so they will slow down. While this product has been widely used in the transportation industry, it is new to the utility world, says Sean Noone of PSS.
“When your phone starts to ding, and you look down and look back up, a lot can happen in 100 yards,” Noone said. “Linemen can place these strips in advance of work zones so drivers become aware of what is in front of them.”
In addition, the vendor also set up its Pedestrian Barricade, which underground workers can place around a trench or manhole. “If you just set up a few cones and barrels and the 'Men Working' sign, people will walk right up to it,” Noone said. “But this acts as a barricade to keep pedestrians away.”
Also in the underground arena, Air Spade offered a product designed to not damage the underground line and to keep linemen safe while excavating around poles.
Not only tools, but also safety and training programs and software can help enhance safety in the field. For example, Three Phase Innovations offers transformer training that allows companies to simulate three-phase power from a 120-V/240-V outlet. Students can learn how to properly and safely isolate and ground a transformer bank and view the dangers of backfeed directly in the classroom, before they face this hazard in the field.
3D Internet also offers new training programs designed to help apprentices and journeymen linemen practice on a computer in a safe, controlled environment. For example, users can now completely customize the training program by adding in infrastructure and other components to make it look as realistic as possible. Going forward, the company is exploring virtual reality as another way to train linemen in safe work procedures.
Celebrating the Line Trade
In addition to labor-saving and safety products on the show floor, this year’s Lineman’s Expo also offered a variety of products to help linemen show their pride in the industry. For example, one vendor made past Lineman’s Rodeo T-shirts into quilts, another hand-crafted ceramic mugs and one booth sold lineman-themed T-shirts.
Many of the linemen’s families brought these lineman-themed items to the grounds of the rodeo. During the day-long event, they had the opportunity to cheer on their loved ones from the sidelines and also browse the exhibits of the 20 outdoor vendors, whose booths spanned more than 9000 sq feet.
“The families like the outdoor exhibits,” said Rodney Lewis of the ILRA. “It gives them something to do, and with so many people at the rodeo, it gives the exhibits a lot of exposure.”
By having the opportunity to attend both an indoor and outdoor trade show, the linemen were able to see, feel and touch the new products designed for them.
Since linemen are doing the same work that they did 50 years ago, many of the products have stayed the same over time, but they have experienced significant improvements, said Anthony Mascaro, journeyman lineman for Eversource Energy. As he walked through the International Lineman’s Museum trailer on the show floor, he said that many of the tools looked familiar to him.
“Back then, everything was American made, but today, the concept is the same,” Mascaro said. “We still hang glass insulators and use hot sticks every day. Everything that is newer, however, is always better.” ♦
Sidebar: Top Winners at the 2017 Expo
Linemen had the opportunity to enter prize drawings on the show floor. Here are some of the winners:
• Raymond McDonald of ATCO Electric in Bonnyville, Alberta, Canada, won the 2017 Electric Utility Operations/ Milwaukee Tool drawing. He beat out about 100 other entrants to win Milwaukee Tool’s M18 FUEL 7/16-inch hex high-torque impact wrench, which is valued at about $500.
• By purchasing a raffle ticket, attendees had the opportunity to win a rolling storage cabinet from Snap-on and to support the ILRA’s Scholarship Fund. Dale Huston, crew leader and journeyman lineman for Memphis Light Gas & Water, won the tool chest, which featured an American flag design.
Editor’s Choice: Top 10 New Products at the 2017 Lineman’s Expo
With hundreds of products on the show floor, T&D World’s editors had the challenging task of finding those products that stood out. Which one is your favorite? Vote online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TJTG66H.
1. Raychem duct sealing system from TE Connectivity for sealing power cable ducts.
2. Utility Air Spade 4000 for excavating underground utilities
3. 3D Internet’s customizable software for training linemen
4. R&R Lotion’s insect repellent and industrial-strength sunscreen
5. Bierer HP72DC hi-pot meter for detecting an energized source
6. Tail Tamer temporary conductor clamp for stringing, cutting and connecting overhead connectors
7. Three-phase simulator from Three-Phase Innovations for transformer training
8. Knuckle Buster gloves from Youngstown Glove Co. to absorb vibration
9. Road Quake from PSS for preventing work zone accidents
10. Xtreme Shell from Andax Industries for remotely monitoring leaks