Those who design bucket trucks and other types of trucks for use by utilities companies and local governments have a uniquely challenging job. Designers need to always keep in mind the many and varied tasks these trucks will be expected to perform and yet never compromise on safety features.
Yet another thing that adds to the complexity of bucket truck design is the repercussions of deregulation on the American electric utility industry. This deregulation has forced utilities to change the way in which their workers are utilized, and in turn, changes the way equipment is used as well. Since electric utilities are now expected to be more competitive, many are streamlining their crews, using fewer workers to get the same number of jobs done.
As utility crews get smaller, the demand for smaller aerial devices on a smaller chassis is increasing. Even though a smaller truck can translate into cost savings, these smaller trucks are also expected to perform more functions. And since these trucks will be fewer, yet working harder, the end users also expect less in the way of maintenance time and expense.
So, a designer needs to calculate optimum replacement times, and the manufacturer generally gets involved in helping to provide outsourced maintenance and rental and leasing options. They always keep in mind that vehicles are expected to be more productive, while costing less to run. Durability and reliability are key.
Safety however, is one of the designer’s biggest concerns. Since so many bucket trucks are used by electric utility companies, a designer is always aware that working with electricity is a dangerous business. At the same time, lengthy power outages are not tolerated by the public, so crews need to be able to work as quickly as possible. Designers are constantly looking at aerial devices in particular when thinking about how to improve safety on bucket trucks.
Most manufacturers of bucket trucks are also being proactive in providing information and training for their customers. One of the most important aspects of accident prevention is properly training those who will be the end users. Even the best-designed equipment can be involved in accidents if it is used incorrectly, or not used for its intended purpose.
With the changing regulatory environment, utility companies have to become more efficient, so they will spend their money on the bucket trucks that meet their needs best. This in turn spurs designers and manufacturers to look at ways in which they can design a safer, smarter vehicle that can handle the workload that the client has.
Even if maintenance crews weren’t getting smaller, bucket trucks that are smaller, safer and more efficient are still an excellent bet for those who need to use them. Manufacturers just need to be sure they stay on top of the market and its needs, so that projects they have in the pipeline are ones that can also match their customer’s needs and expectations. Making a truck that utility companies really want to buy is a winning proposition for all parties.