Fleet building at sunset

Tucson Electric Power’s fleet features more than just bucket trucks.

TEP employees rely on nearly 800 vehicles and equipment, including everything from a Condor that reaches as high as 180 feet to small golf carts and solar-powered light towers. About 450 of the vehicles are trucks driven on city streets.

The company’s vehicles travel a combined 4.2 million miles annually.

“You may not think we would have such a diverse fleet of vehicles,” said Julie Gomez, Transmission and Distribution Supervisor who oversees Fleet Services. “We use the fleet to keep service reliable for our customers.”

Last year, the company’s vehicles helped crews make 3,754 repairs to the electrical system. Employees also rely on vehicle-mounted equipment to string power lines and dig holes for poles. TEP even owns a snow plow to ensure access to facilities after a severe winter storm.

TEP allows employees to use the company’s vehicles and mobile light towers to assist local charities and community groups. Employees have used bucket trucks to string holiday lights in tall trees for the Winterhaven Festival of Lights and have driven decorated flatbed trailers in parades. One brave volunteer even used a company forklift to help zookeepers move a rhinoceros at the Reid Park Zoo.

Two dozen employees work in Fleet Services, including mechanics and support staff. The fleet is maintained onsite at TEP’s campus on Irvington Road near the H. Wilson Sundt Generating Station.

The fleet garage consists of six bays and an outside covered work area.

Mechanics work from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. to keep the fleet running smoothly. They are responsible for maintaining every vehicle, including routine oil changes and repairs.

Nearby, vehicles can be washed with recycled water or fill up on gasoline or diesel. Overnight, a gas tanker truck goes from vehicle to vehicle, refueling each one so it is ready for the next morning’s work.

“It’s very efficient. The idea is that our employees can hop in their vehicles and go,” Gomez said.

The department keeps a full inventory of parts, including a room filled with tires.

Here are some of the vehicles and equipment operated by TEP:

Name: Transmission Bucket Truck

Nickname: The Condor

Size: 180 feet tall when fully extended, 31.5 feet long and 112,000 pounds

How it’s used: The Condor is used for installing and servicing the tallest power lines along with other work. The aerial work platform vehicle is an all-wheel-drive machine with six independent axles.

Fun fact: Crews use the Condor to make repairs using the “bare hand” method on energized lines.

Name: One Man Bucket Truck

Nickname: Trouble Bucket

Size: 44 feet tall when fully extended, 14.5 feet long and 19,500 pounds

How it’s used: The most commonly seen trucks are used by TEP first responders to respond to 911 calls, traffic accidents and downed power lines and poles.

Fun fact: TEP employee volunteers decorate bucket trucks that haul trailers in the annual Parade of Lights in downtown Tucson.

 

Name: Crane Truck

Nickname: Manitex

Size: 155 feet tall when fully extended, 45 feet long and 80,000 pounds

How it’s used: The Manitex is used to lift heavy loads, equipment and material up to 50 tons.

Name: Pressure digger

Nickname: Watson

Size: 13 feet 10 inches high, 32 feet long and 67,000 pounds

How it’s used: Crews use this vehicle to dig holes up to 36 feet deep and 60 inches in diameter for utility poles.

Name: Pettibone Forklift with Pinchers

Nickname: Pettibone Lobster

Size: 19 feet, 4 inches tall when fully extended; 12 feet long, and 50,000 pounds.

How it’s used: Employees working in TEP’s warehouse use the forklift to remove utility poles from delivery trucks and place them onto trailers for transportation to job sites. The vehicle can lift up to 50,000 pounds – the same as its own weight.

Fun fact: The forklift was used to help zookeepers move a rhinoceros in a crate at the Reid Park Zoo.