Line Crew Keeps Up Preventive Maintenance During Pandemic

Pandemic or not, the current has to keep flowing through those transmission lines.

That means the constant maintenance of the more than 800 miles of AzGT transmission infrastructure and the health of the linemen who keep it all in the best condition possible has never been more important.

How the line crew is getting the job done was on display during the recent structure change out project on the Apache-Hayden 115 kV line where it crosses Three Links Road, east of the San Pedro River about 20 miles north of Benson.

As part of the ongoing Preventive Maintenance (PM) program, the crew was changing out a total of three poles on two structures that were identified as having sustained damage from the harsh dry weather, summer heat, and monsoon storms. And woodpeckers – which, given enough time – can weaken the huge poles to the point where they have to be replaced.

From left to right, hotstick linemen Dustin Benavidez and Tony Ferraro manage the bucket truck after hotstick lineman apprentice Brandon Guinane returns from using the bucket to perform preventive maintenance on a pole that had some damage from woodpeckers.

“The woodpeckers in this area, they just eat them up really bad, and so the line crew, when they came through (inspecting the poles), they targeted these because there’s too much damage to repair, and it’s better off to replace them,” said Robert Bivens, AzGT transmission maintenance manager.

Safety is job one, followed by efficiency, and every member of the crew has a specific role.

“The foreman Barry Jackson, at the start of the job, he does a tailboard briefing and he assigns each guy a job to do, and each person can do either of two jobs that he assigns, they multi-task that way and they’re good at everything they do,” Bivens said.

Barry Jackson, transmission line working foreman, said the cross-training the crew receives leads to results in the field.

“They just do what they got to do, we know how much time it takes each person to do their job, and it goes like clockwork,” Jackson said.

Changing out two poles on the second structure took about half a day – an impressive performance in light of what’s involved.

“We try to get everybody to be able to do everything; operate on everything, so in time they know how to do it all, switch jobs, so for any task we can switch off and on, depending on who’s there and what’s required,” said Jackson.

Jackson said the crew “hasn’t missed a beat” in spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic.

So how do you maintain social distancing in a transmission truck bucket?

“The biggest challenge is the six foot, try to keep six feet distance, and if we get into a job that takes two guys in a bucket, then we have to bring two bucket trucks, because two guys in a bucket is four feet apart and that’s not going to work,” Jackson said.

“Then driving the trucks back and forth, we have to have enough drivers because it’s one person, one driver, in each truck, but we’re making it work,” Jackson said.

Jackson said there’s no room for carelessness – especially now.

“As long as nobody gets sick, that’s what I’m thinking about. If somebody gets sick, then the whole crew is probably going to be quarantined, so luckily, nobody’s got sick, or their families,” said Jackson.

Jackson said morale is good and the AzGT line crew is committed to doing its part to keep the lights on.

“I think they’re getting used to it. We’re good,” said Jackson.

The members of the line crew include: Barry Jackson, transmission line working foreman; Jason Searle, Dustin Benavides, and Tony Ferraro, hotstick linemen, and Brandon Guinane, hotstick lineman apprentice.