Supporting the Front Lines from Behind the Scenes

Fleet Maintenance at Union Power Cooperative

Many people assume that when they flip a switch, the lights will turn on; and for most consumers, it is that simple — just a flip of a light switch. But a lot of behind-the-scenes work is necessary to produce the electricity we consume every day. We are familiar with the hard work and efforts of those who serve on the front lines to power our homes, but much of that service would be impossible without the on-going support and maintenance of tools, vehicles, and equipment used to provide members with safe, reliable electric power and energy services. One of the key components needed to ensure a reliable electric supply is reliable vehicles and equipment to service power lines and facilities – that’s where Union Power’s Fleet Maintenance department comes in.

Our Fleet Maintenance department is responsible for overseeing a fleet of 181 pieces of equipment which include vehicles, trenchers, excavators, forklifts, trailers, and generators. The team has the daunting day-to-day task of keeping this equipment in top operating condition throughout their entire life cycle. They handle everything from oil changes and regular preventative maintenance of equipment to breakdowns and repairs. They may have to repair fleet
vehicles, troubleshoot power tools, or replace a broken part on a production machine. In addition, Fleet Maintenance oversees the acquisition of and replacement of fleet vehicles, equipment, and management of fuel operations.

Many are not aware of the vital role our Fleet Maintenance department plays in driving the day-to-day activities of the company. This is likely because Fleet Maintenance does not have direct interaction with the public, but rather serves our members and communities indirectly by providing all of the other service-providing departments with the vehicles they require to accomplish
their respective tasks. Not only do our personnel work hard to keep the fleet in tip-top shape, they also go above and beyond the call of duty during emergencies. 

Just last year, three severe storms – two hurricanes and an ice storm – hit and caused widespread outages for our members. Our fleet crew worked tirelessly to provide linemen with the transportation and equipment they needed to restore power across all areas of our service territory. And since we operate in a culture that is everready
for emergencies, once power was restored, crews and equipment were sent to support other co-ops in harder hit areas. Each crew worked on a seven-day, on-call rotation where they had to be readily prepared to be sent anywhere, at any time.

Director of Fleet Maintenance Bobby Bryant emphasized the importance of ensuring that crews were always safe, had proper accommodations, and the support they needed to perform their duties efficiently.

Technician Trent Hinson, shared his experience of the team’s restoration efforts. “I was sent to Florida and Georgia. There was so much devastation. It was such a humbling experience and a sight to see. Even though I work on the fleet, I helped with anything that needed to be done – maintaining trucks, making repairs, clearing trees, directing traffic…anything,” Hinson said.

Many times, technicians will go into the field to make a repair. And, if a repair can be done safely and the parts can be transported there, the technician will fix it on-site. However, sometimes, that is not possible.

Technician Lane Helms shared a story about when he was called to Wilmington to fix a bucket truck that had broken down out in the field. What was normally an easy, threehour trip, turned into nine hours due to the road conditions, road closures, and other destruction from the storm. When he arrived, it was 4 a.m., but he worked diligently to get the truck back up and running, and soon discovered it was unable to be fixed and had to be towed.

Although teams face increasingly complicated challenges, it’s the essentials that set the tone for the successful completion of their duties – teamwork, trust, collaboration, hard work, appreciation, and purpose.

We rely heavily on our Fleet Maintenance department to provide efficient and reliable service in the maintenance and repair of all co-op vehicles and transportation equipment.  They supply us, especially those who work in the field, with the vehicles, equipment, and resources needed to do our jobs safely and in a timely manner. 

Thank you to our Fleet Maintenance department for your dedication and the behind-the-scenes work you do!