Today’s utilities expect their field workforce to improve productivity while working safely. To help their field workforce meet this goal, power companies send their linemen to the Lineman’s Expo at the Overland Park Convention Center.
For two full days, linemen have the opportunity to walk the aisles of the trade show floor to try out new products, participate in giveaways and learn about the latest technology. For example, Dwayne DeVries, who served as a chief judge at the rodeo, says he has been coming to the event for the last 20 years. This year, Centerpoint Energy brought four journeymen teams and three apprentices to attend the expo and compete in the rodeo.
This year, the expo had 123 exhibitors, which set a new record, says Kim Good, show manager. In addition to the indoor vendors, the rodeo also had 20 outdoor exhibitors.
“We had the most outdoor exhibits ever, and they also sold out,” Good says.
For 2016, the expo had a special exhibitor on the show floor — the International Lineman’s Museum. Two years ago, the museum had an outdoor trailer, but this year, linemen were able to walk through the trailer inside the exhibition hall and admire vintage hot sticks, insulators and other historic line tools and equipment. Outside the trailer, Scott Blixt, a substation operator for the Metro West Trouble Department for Xcel Energy in Minneapolis, was browsing the exhibits. For 2016, he was serving as a judge for the rodeo.
“There are a lot of good teams out there, and the kids are really fun to see,” Blixt says. “I also enjoy coming to the expo because I like to look for new and different tools.”
At the expo, a wide variety of vendors showcased their products, including manufacturers of hand tools, heavy machinery, personal protective equipment, wildlife protection and fall protection.
Within the wildlife protection arena, TE Connectivity offered a new design for raptor protection. Unlike the past products, the new product features a wire clamp on the conductor.
“Because of its design, it’s nearly impossible for this new raptor protection to come off the line in high winds,” says Don Findley of TE Connectivity.
Linemen often can work in harsh outdoor environments, so the expo offers garments and personal protective equipment specially designed for the field workforce. For example, J Harlen Co. displayed not only its traditional work boots, but also special lightweight, more comfortable footwear with a composite toe from Ariat. Also, Youngstown Glove Co. allowed linemen to try on its new work performance gloves.
Meanwhile, DragonWear was showcasing its latest FR garments, including the Elements flap jacket, which features lightweight, U.S.-made Polartec fabric. To keep linemen comfortable while wearing fall protection, the jacket has a hard-faced shoulder and chest area so the harness straps do not rub against the skin.
Along with warm and comfortable clothing and footwear, linemen also need energy-saving hand tools. As such, many vendors showcased their latest cordless power tools for linemen such as Milwaukee Tool. In addition, at its booth, Sherman+Reilly displayed a new 6-ton crimper that it launched about a year ago.
As in past years, the expo also featured new exhibitors. For example, after working in the farming industry, Square Tow Inc. is now offering its shock-absorbing link — the Jerk Rope — to the utility industry. The compact and lightweight rope can be used for heavy-duty pulling, and it can help linemen successfully get their stuck equipment out of wet and muddy locations.
With many utilities now moving to 100% fall protection, several vendors showcased their new and improved harnesses. For example, Jelco displayed its Kevlar Arc Flash Harness, which features a dielectric dorsal D-ring and quick connect buckles.
To help linemen scale poles in tough-to-access areas, Winola Industrial Inc. displayed its McGregor climbing devices. These made-to-spec, load-tested devices help linemen to climb poles in areas that cannot be accessed by a traditional bucket truck.
For rigging applications, Tallman Equipment Co. introduced a new handline hook that can withstand 1000 lbs of lift with a 5:1 safety factor.
Competing in Contests
In addition to looking for new tools on the show floor, linemen also competed in contests. For example, the Historical Armory teamed up with International Lineman’s Rodeo Association (ILRA) to offer an American Lineman Limited Edition rifle as a raffle item at the expo this year. All of the proceeds benefited the ILRA scholarship fund. Dennis McDonnell, journeyman lineman for IBEW Local #47/City of Riverside, won the rifle.
In addition, Snap-On Tools partnered with the ILRA for a tool chest raffle. Three hundred tickets were sold, and Wendy Ratushniak, president of IBEW Local 2034 from Winnipeg, Canada, was selected as the winner of this year’s raffle. The tickets sold for $15 for one, $50 for four and $100 for 10, and the raffle raised $4,710 for the scholarship foundation.
“It’s our way of giving back,” says John Tremblay of Snap-On Tools, which was showcasing its new composite tool line at the expo.
At the T&D World booth, attendees had the opportunity to enter a drawing for a Milwaukee Tool M18 FUEL 7/16 in. Hex High Torque Impact Wrench, which retailed at about $500. Jesse Burham, lineman for UI in Orange, Connecticut, won this year’s drawing.
By not only participating in the contests, but also looking for new tools and technology, the linemen were able to find products that can help them do their jobs more safely and efficiently. For example, Jacob Shull, a journeyman lineman for Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative in Wilcox, Arizona, says he discovered a digger truck from Watson that has a different design than what his crew uses.
“There’s always something new,” he says. “I enjoy the diversity of products at the expo.”