By Matt Nauman
STOCKTON – The first in a series of dozens of new gas crew trucks was delivered to PG&E’s Stockton service center today (Oct. 2).
The trucks were designed by a team of PG&E employees to help them do their jobs more safely and efficiently. And the vehicles are being assembled by a family-owned company in Tracy that was able to add more than 20 new jobs as a result of PG&E’s order.
“There are some huge changes on this truck,” said Ross Leverett, a director of gas maintenance and construction in the Central Valley and a member of the design team. “We crawled under, over and inside this truck and explored every nook and cranny.”
Among the new features:
- A hydraulic lifter that will make heavy equipment such as 90-pound jackhammers more accessible to work crews.
- Roll-up doors that replace the swing-out doors on the previous generation trucks. This will help keep gear more secure and be safer as crew often have to work in the middle of a street.
- An enhanced rear work and storage area that’s tall enough for someone 6-feet-4 to stand without stooping. That area also has skylights to provide better interior lighting.
- Bins complete with LED lights that use less energy and provide needed light for night jobs.
- Two bucket seats with air suspension that will make longer drives more comfortable.
- The new trucks meet current and future emission rules.
The truck chassis are built by Peterbilt Motors in Canada. The bodies are built by Dakota Bodies in Watertown, S.D. And the vehicles are being assembled by hand and painted at American Truck & Trailer Body, a family-operated and minority-owned business in Tracy. American Truck started with $2,000 and one tool box in 1992. In 2012, it expects sales of $21 million. Its workforce has nearly tripled, to 90, in recent years.
PG&E will get 1,200 vehicles from American Truck in 2012; 57 of those will be the new gas crew trucks. Another 55 to 60 of these trucks will be constructed each year through 2015. Of PG&E’s fleet of 12,000 vehicles, about 3,300 are used for gas operations.
“As PG&E builds a safer, more reliable natural gas system, we need the finest tools at our disposal,” said Nick Stavropoulos, the company’s executive vice president of gas operations. “Our new gas trucks equip our maintenance and constructions crews with precisely what they’ve asked for.”
Those crews had a large hand in the design of the trucks that they’ll use. A 10-person team that included managers and gas field workers was assembled in late 2011. In response to a survey, nearly 500 gas workers weighed in on what they would like to change and what they would like to see added on their work trucks. The design team then reviewed all the input and ideas and started working with manufacturers such as Peterbilt and American Truck to see what was possible. Their work included site visits and walk-arounds where they suggested items such as longer grab handles, specific locations for lights and even an interior storage bin for an 8-foot ladder.
For Terry McKinney, a PG&E gas crew foreman who is 6-foot-3, having room to stand inside the truck represents a significant improvement.
In Stockton on Thursday, the first truck was delivered to a local gas crew who won an employee video contest. At that event, Tracy Mayor Pro Tem Mike Maciel congratulated PG&E and thanked the utility for its commitment to the local economy.
Also, he said, the new truck “is an opportunity to show the world that PG&E takes pipeline safety very seriously.”
Stavropoulos, in fact, said he joined PG&E in 2011 after three decades at utilities in New York and New England with one purpose – safety. He pointed to improved response times to calls about potential gas leaks and major improvements to record-keeping, as well as to the arrival of the new gas trucks, as signs that progress is being made.
“Hopefully you can see we’re starting to make a difference,” he said, praising PG&E’s gas crews as the company’s first responders. “We have an awesome responsibility to our customers.”
Email Matt Nauman at email@example.com.