Digger derricks often are not designed to handle a significant amount of weight. Linemen rely on this heavy equipment, however, to extract wood poles from the ground. When this happens, the derrick's boom can experience undue tension. Eventually, the boom can become separated from the truck, causing bolts to pop off and putting linemen in harm's way.

For example, a few years ago, a contract employee working for DEMCO used a derrick truck to pull a stub out of the ground. At that point, the boom separated from the truck and the bolts sheared, catapulting the operator out of his seat and landing him in the hospital for six months.

After investigating the accident, DEMCO decided that there had to be a better way of removing poles. The utility then began researching different pole pullers out in the market. The utility discovered that many of the products were too heavy, and when trying to remove poles, even a few pounds could make a significant difference.

Reducing Strain on the Boom Truck

DEMCO then came across the Hydraulic Utility Pole Puller from Tiiger Inc. This product was only 57 lb, said to be the most lightweight one on the market. After testing it out in the field, the utility opted to invest in the Pole Puller because it was easy to use, portable and ergonomic.

The product is made in the United States and has a lifting capacity of 50,120 lb. The Pole Puller features a base plate designed to provide for a low center of gravity to minimize tipping. This low point of attachment enables users to cut poles closer to the ground.

The 36-lb swivel-and-hook assembly allows users to pre-tension the chain and reduce stress. The swivel is fabricated with high-yield strength steel, and the hook assembly is made with stainless-steel components. The back plate prevents the chain roll-up to increase the maximum lift per stroke. A Pole Puller pad option can lock the base plate into position to eliminate the potential for slippage. This pad is designed to be strong and flexible so it won't crack under soft ground conditions.

As such, the Pole Puller is said to reduce personal injury associated with using a boom truck. In addition, it can help reduce damage to the boom.

Protecting Linemen in the Field

Back in 2008, DEMCO bought its first Pole Puller and then began deploying them to the field. A year later, as new trucks became coming out on the line, the utility partnered with Altec Industries to ensure that the new equipment was built into its fleet of new vehicles.

The company now has 11 digger derricks with the Pole Puller installed on them. This product has allowed the linemen to jack a pole out of the ground much in the same way that a car can be lifted up with a car jack.

Before the Pole Puller, the linemen had to dig down on the side of the pole, grab the cable, shake the pole loose and use force to pull the pole out of the ground. Now, they simply set up the Tiiger pole puller, which is operated by the available tool circuit on the digger derrick. They can then safely and effectively remove the pole from the ground.

Training Linemen

Tiiger spent a half a day with each one of DEMCO's six districts to demonstrate how the product was used and to train all of the line construction crews.

The utility now uses the Pole Puller on all overhead construction projects. As a result, the utility has made the process of pulling poles safer for its linemen and extended the life of its derrick trucks.


Keith Beaucoudray (keithb@demco.org) is the safety coordinator for DEMCO and is based out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He has spent many of his 34 years in the industry out in the field. He worked as a groundsman, first-class line foreman, crew lineman and district crew supervisor.