PEC Regional Operations Manager Roy Montemayor has been with the cooperative going on 37 years now, but don’t call him an old-timer. “Let’s say I’m tenured,” he says with a laugh. A lot about the job has changed in his time, but the mission remains the same: Providing members with safe, reliable electric service.
Montemayor says the changes he’s seen have made vast improvements to our lineworkers’ ability to deliver on that mission. “Back in the day we had to rely on memory a lot of the time, even to remember where underground lines would be buried back in the woods,” he said. “We had maps in the office, and they gave us these giant, heavy paper maps to carry around. Now we have mapping systems that do it for us.”
Technology has indeed made PEC a safer, more reliable cooperative. Simple advancements like properly maintained and equipped bucket trucks reduce the amount of dangerous climbing lineworkers have to do. “When I started out, we had smaller poles, so the bucket trucks were smaller and didn’t have safety features. They were old equipment, and we didn’t have mechanics,” Montemayor said. “Now we not only have the trucks, but small remote buckets that can fit into back yards, it’s safer and gets the power back on more quickly.”
Climbing poles has gotten safer too, though the equipment is mostly the same. “We’re still using climbers like they did in the 30s, we call them hooks on our legs and feet,” Montemayor explained. “In recent years, we’ve added fall protection on our belts that goes around the pole. It used to be you would just slide down the pole, now the belts catch you if you slip.”
On the high-tech side, we now utilize unmanned aerial vehicles to inspect and diagnose the power lines more efficiently than ever before. Automated breakers protect equipment and allow for faster restoration times, and our control center constantly monitors the entire system. These advancements are reflected in our vastly improved outage times.
“I think that the technology has really changed the mentality of the linemen,” Montemayor said. “Before, just about the only thing you needed to know was how to climb. Nowadays, training is a huge part of the job, and it happens not only in the field, but on the computer. You not only have to be tough, willing to work day or night no matter the weather; you have to have the smarts to keep up with the technology. It’s a different kind of lineman.”
“We jokingly tell the younger guys all the time they have it too easy now,” Montemayor said. “But the truth is, they can do the work faster and safer than we ever could back then. My job now is to help them be successful.”