I work as a Fleet Maintenance Controller for Eskom. I was originally trained as an earth-moving equipment mechanic, and I still rely on my technical abilities on a daily basis. As a quadriplegic, I am very proud of myself and my colleagues, who have truly accepted me as an equal.
I recently had the privilege of flying up to Johannesburg to see Eskom’s latest state of the art equipment. One of the items that most impressed me was this very specialised maintenance vehicle for doing “live line” work. That means that the maintenance electricians work on the power lines with 132 000 Volts coursing through them. The men work on the lines without the electricity being switched off, which enables Eskom to minimize power outages during maintenance.
500 000 Volts
The truck itself is a Western Star with six-wheel (6x6) drive and a Detroit diesel engine powering an automatic transmission. The truck has the ability to inflate and deflate the tyre pressure from the cab, giving it very good off-road performance. Mounted on the back of the truck is a 26m insulated boom rated at 500 000 Volts. Fully extended, including the height of the truck, it reaches 28 m.
After watching my colleagues go up, it was soon my turn. A safety harness was attached, and I sat on a garden chair inside the basket, and up we went. It was a surprisingly smooth ride, and at the equivalent of 9 storeys high, it was surprisingly quiet. The only disturbing noise was the sound of Eskom helicopters flying around at what seemed like similar altitudes. The vehicle will be based in Pietermaritzburg, but will work throughout KwaZulu Natal.