Every year at the Lineman's Expo, linemen search for tools that will save them time, and more importantly, allow them to come home safely to their families every night. For 2019, 171 exhibitors and 29 new exhibitors showcased their new products and services in 26,600 sq ft of exhibit space.
“It has really grown in not only the participants, but also our vendors,” says Mitchell Hankins of the International Lineman’s Rodeo Association (ILRA). “The number one thing for our vendors is to be able to talk to the linemen face-to-face, see how they like the tools and then ask them about what alterations would help them in their work.”
Trying New Technology
Following the one-and-a-half-day safety conference, linemen and their families lined up outside the exhibit hall to get the opportunity to try out new tools and technologies. For example, Nathan Wilke, a journeyman lineman for Capital Electric in Kansas City, Missouri, who attended the Expo for the first time, brought his family to the trade show.
“There is a lot of stuff here, and I am looking to see what tools are getting better and stronger,” Wilke says. Christopher Clark of Southern California Edison says he judged at his local Rodeo for 20 years before coming to the International Lineman’s Rodeo Week.
“You get to see so many people and exchange ideas with other linemen,” Clark says.
At many companies, linemen don’t purchase the tools and equipment themselves, but they have a significant influence on purchasing decisions because they are working in the field.
“At this year’s Expo, we’ve had great participation from the linemen and their bosses who are here,” Hankins says. “Linemen can also go back to their companies and ask to talk to their supervisors about what they need and which companies are offering it.”
Dennis Kerr of the ILRA says the exhibit hall was full of new products for the linemen to check out.
“The Lineman’s Expo brings in the latest and greatest in safety equipment, FR clothing, safety gear and tools for linemen to do their jobs safely every day,” Kerr says.
Due to the nature of the line trade, safety is a top priority for all the linemen so they can come home safely to their families every night. As such, many of the exhibitors offered products to help safeguard linemen while they were working in the field.
For example, Safeguard Systems showcased its Compass personal voltage and current detector while Adresys, a new exhibitor for 2019, exhibited at the Expo to gather feedback from the Rodeo attendees. Andresys is working on a device to detect electric shock, request emergency assistance and short a power line. Adresys plans to field test the product in one to two years.
“We’ve gotten a great response and a lot of positive feedback,” says Ulrich Klapper of Adresys.
As in the last few years, the exhibitors displayed a wide array of personal protective equipment from hard hats to safety glasses to boots to flame-retardant clothing. Ariat International designed a vest, jacket and shirt jacket made of water-repellant stretch canvas. The company was also one of the first to offer screen printing on FR garments, and at the Expo, it displayed a long-sleeve shirt with a flag print and signature skull design, along with the Lineman Boot, which can withstand 40 deg below 0 temperatures and extreme heat.
Lakeland Industries, one of the entrants into T&D World’s Top Tools of the Trade, featured a rack of its mid-weight layering garments for the linemen to touch and try on. Some of the garments were water- and wind-resistant and moisture-wicking for maximum comfort. In the glove category, Youngstown Glove Company allowed linemen to slip on the leather protectors, which can go on top of their rubber gloves.
Also, two companies—Sonetics and Speak Easy Communication Solutions—focused on improving communication on the job site via wireless headsets. Oftentimes, it’s challenging, if not impossible, for linemen to communicate via cell phones during emergency situations and storm response, and the products helped to improve linemen’s safety. Rather than using cell phones in the buckets, hand signals or yelling, the linemen can now communicate via long-range, hands-free headsets.
Another product that was designed to improve safety on the job site was the new transformer containment bag by Andax to prevent spillage from leaking transformers. Utility Work Site Solutions also launched a new product—lighted caution tape—to create a safer work environment.
“This increases visibility and reduces liability,” says John Martinez of Utility Work Site Solutions. “When linemen are working on the side of the road at night, it helps them to be seen.”
In addition, other companies exhibited their lighting products such as ILLUMAGEAR, which created a cord-free, hands-free Halo, which is visible more than a quarter of a mile away and Princeton Tec’s hands-free headlamp.
Another focus of the exhibitors was to improve linemen’s productivity in the field. Over time, the materials that are used to manufacture the products for the line trade have changed significantly, Hankins says.
“Instead of putting up wood crossarms, linemen are installing fiberglass,” he says.
Companies are also manufacturing poles out of fiberglass. For example, RS Technology, Inc. showcased its fiberglass modular poles, which have a life expectancy of 80 years. Utilities can design the configuration and height of the poles to fit their needs.
“It’s the pole of the future,” says Dan Robinson of RS Technologies, Inc.
Another exhibitor, DTX Tooling, designed a product that can shoot a line across canyons and rivers. Nearby, Pacific Test and Measurement allowed the Rodeo attendees to try out a hands-free wearable computer, which was attached to a hard hat.
At the 2019 Lineman’s Expo, the linemen also could see what was new with tools and equipment. Huskie Tools revealed its brand new battery-powered remote cutter, which it had just launched at the ICUEE show weeks before. The product allowed linemen to perform underground cutting without going down in vaults or manholes.
On the show floor, the tools have changed immensely, Hankins says.
“Back when I started, we didn’t have any battery-operated tools, and now every vendor in here has some,” Hankins says. “If you look back at the old linemen, many of us have had rotator cuff injuries and surgeries due to cutting big wire and crimping and holding presses with a stick. It wears on your body parts.”
While some of the companies have been exhibiting at the Expo for years, others just started signing up for a booth, Hankins says.
“When they come here, they want to come back,” Hankins says. “Some of them get signed up for the next year as the Expo winds down.”