Northern Powergrid has invested £1.75m in a new fleet of seven Mercedes-Benz Unimogs, equipped to repair and replace overhead electricity lines.
The vehicles will be used by teams across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire.
Specified as U5023 UHE Extreme Off-road Unimog models, all the vehicles are fitted with Versalift hydraulic access equipment. Each lift has a ‘basket’ big enough to accommodate two engineers working at a height of up to 20 metres.
Northern Powergrid is a long-established Unimog customer – its latest are the subject of a fully serviced contract hire agreement with sister company Vehicle Lease & Service (VLS). Representatives of both worked closely with their counterparts from supplying dealer South Cave Tractors and Versalift in drawing up the specifications.
Alistair Walton, programme manager – Overhead Lines for Northern Powergrid’s South Yorkshire & North Lincolnshire region, said: “These vehicles are deployed daily across our operations and are used by our teams of Overhead Linesmen to access wood pole overhead power lines which can carry anything from 240 to 66,000 volts.
“Many of these are in difficult-to-reach locations but the Unimog’s fantastic off-road capability allows us to traverse the most challenging of terrains. The access platform’s 20-metre maximum reach, meanwhile, represents a big improvement on the 15 metres achieved by the vehicles we were using previously for the same task.
“While considering the design we also asked our teams for their input and as a result have included extras like heated lockers and additional working lights, which will be a great help if they are called out at night or in difficult weather conditions to restore power for our customers.”
All Unimogs have 4x4 chassis with single rear wheels, while gross weights vary from 7.5 to 16.5 tonnes. Ultra-high mobility variants like Northern Powergrid’s U5023s – which are rated at 12.7 tonnes GVW – offer enahnced traction thanks to their strong yet torsionally flexible frame and a torque tube suspension system that provides extreme levels of axle articulation.
The Unimog U5023 is powered by a 5.1-litre four-cylinder engine producing 230hp. Standard equipment includes the Central Tyre Inflation system, which allows the driver to drop the pressures from the cab when the vehicle is off-road. In addition to increasing grip, this also brings an environmental benefit by minimising damage to the ground. Tyres can then be reinflated when back on a hard surface for greater safety and fuel efficiency at normal road speeds.
VLS commercial manager Justin Bower added: “These are highly specialised vehicles and with its unique set of capabilities the Mercedes-Benz Unimog is by a long margin the best base chassis for such a demanding application.
“Its off-road ability is legendary, of course. No less important, though, given that these vehicles can be called upon at any time of the day or night, and in all weathers, is the superb, and well proven reliability of the chassis and the access platforms.”