When linemen are framing poles, they often rely on a digger derrick truck to get the job done. Oftentimes, however, they wind up having to flag traffic and circumvent obstacles such as driveways, sidewalks, water lines and fire hydrants. When working on homeowners' property, linemen also take the risk of damaging the lawn and landscaping.

To help save time and minimize damage to property, some line crews are now using the PD-40 pole framing jack, manufactured by Sherman & Reilly (Chattanooga, Tennessee). This device can be easily stored in a pickup truck or side bin, and it allows one person to frame wood poles on site before line crews are ready to set the completed pole.

Before using the device, linemen must identify the locations where the poles are to be framed and set. Line crews can then transfer the material by the poles and lay the jack on the ground. They then take a hook and roll it up on the jack. They can then lift up the pole about 24 to 36 inches off the ground, put the arms on it, get everything framed, release the jack and place it back down. The device will hold up to 4,500 pounds and will lift any size pole.

Keeping Linemen Safe in the Field

While linemen use the device to improve efficiency in the field, they also use it to stabilize the pole and improve safety.

When using traditional methods, the pole often sways as linemen push a drill bit into the pole. In contrast, the jack keeps everything stable and prevents the pole from constantly moving. This eliminates the possibility of smashing a lineman's finger or the pole tipping or rolling due to the movement of the pole. It has proven itself to be safer and more efficient than any block or stand.

When setting and framing poles, linemen are at risk for injuring their hands or their feet, and the jack helps to make the job as easy and safe as possible.

Improving Efficiency

When a line crew has a digger derrick working in one place, it can tie up the buckets and the whole crew. With a pole jack, however, it won't take more than two workers to frame a pole at any given time.

It normally takes a seven-person crew two days in three-phase construction to frame 22 poles. They often rely on the digger truck to hold the poles while the crew frames them. By using the pole framing jack and splitting the crew up, linemen can complete the job in three hours. Also, they can free up the digger so it can be used to set poles. The completion of the job is cut by two-thirds. While the jacks are expensive, they can pay for themselves on one job if used correctly. Some utilities have even noticed a decrease in fuel cost from job to job.

The jack is especially efficient for contractors who are often hired by utilities to rebuild main feeder lines. Contractors often get paid based on how many poles they set. For that reason, it's imperative for them to finish the job quickly and efficiently.

Built to Last

The device is made out of aluminum, which drives up the cost, but it also makes it more durable and lighter than steel. The jack is built to withstand extreme weather conditions and heavy usage on a job site.

The prototype was introduced in 2004, but the product was first used in the field back in 2001 at Pike Electric Corp. (Mount Airy, North Carolina). Through the years, the jack has been used on construction sites nationwide to help line crews boost their efficiency, protect their field professionals, prevent damage to homeowners' property and decrease heavy equipment usage.

Danny Clark (clark_angie@att.net) is a line foreman for Delta Electric Power Association (Greenwood, Mississippi). He has been with the co-op for two years, but he's served in the industry for 24 years. He previously worked for Pike Electric Corp. for 20 years and came up with the idea for the product while working on a project in Georgia.