The Ultimate Utility Vehicle

The new CEI utility vehicle – parked at its home base in Miles Service Center – will help keep fleet mechanics safe while enabling them to perform 95% of their work in the field.

February 12, 2020

The next time fleet mechanics at CEI are called on to provide out-of-town support, they will have a new utility vehicle at their disposal. To say that Greg Savol – a fleet mechanic and co-designer of the vehicle – is proud of his new creation would be an understatement.

“Let’s just say that when other field workers hear about this truck, they’re going to want one,” said Greg. Fleet mechanics Rob Dawe and Mike Sporcich also contributed to the design of the 30,000-pound vehicle.

When providing mutual assistance or support to other FEU operating companies during storm restoration events, fleet mechanics must be ready to handle a variety of issues. They often work in poor weather conditions, and they encounter everything from damaged hydraulic lines on aerial booms to bucket trucks that are stuck in the mud.

“You can’t pull a 30,000-pound bucket truck out of the mud with an 8,000-pound pickup truck – it just isn’t possible,” added Greg. “You need a vehicle that is as big or bigger than what you are trying to pull.”

The mechanics took a “wish list” to a contractor that specializes in fabricating truck bodies. They ended up with a vehicle that will help them handle almost any situation in the field. The truck is built on the same Freightliner chassis as the company’s bucket trucks and digger derricks. However, the back of the vehicle is custom-made to their specifications. According to Greg, Rob and Mike, it’s basically a full-service garage on wheels.

Fleet mechanics Mike Sporcich (l.) and Greg Savol showcase some of the utility truck’s features, including a rapid battery charger (lower left), an air compressor, hydraulic pump and power supply system (right), and a truck-mounted service crane (top).

“One of the biggest challenges we face on the road is weather,” said Rob. “We made sure our design started with an enclosed, heated compartment so we could access tools and perform work while being protected from the elements.”

Mike believes the new truck will help improve safety, as well. “When working in the field, we rarely get to choose our work location,” he said. “We usually have to make repairs while parked on the side of the road or in a remote location. The new vehicle has everything we need to perform our jobs while also helping to reduce our exposure to worksite hazards.”

Other features include: four-wheel drive; two winches – one in the front and rear of the vehicle; outriggers for stabilization; a service crane mounted on the back of the truck; a crimping machine to repair hydraulic lines and fittings; and connections for company laptops. The vehicle also is stocked with a variety of parts and tools, including a device that is an all-in-one generator, welder and air compressor.

“It’s the neatest thing since sliced bread,” Greg added with a chuckle.

Greg, Rob and Mike agreed the project couldn’t have happened without support from Bryan Komlos, manager, Regulated Fleet & Facilities Services, and Jim Andrick, senior technical specialist, Energy Delivery-Fleet Operations.

“The best part about this project is that the vehicle was designed by fleet mechanics, for fleet mechanics,” said Bryan. “They have a challenging job, but this truck will enable our mechanics to perform 95% of their work in the field. Most important, it will help improve their efficiency and keep them safe.”

According to Bryan, there is a second, slightly smaller, truck currently being built for out-of-town trips. Other FEU operating companies might be interested in adding one of these ultimate utility vehicles to their fleet after the CEI prototype truck has been field tested on a few road trips, he added.

In addition to protecting fleet mechanics from the elements, the truck’s enclosed rear compartment has plenty of storage space for tools and parts, and a worktable with a power outlet.