Northern Powergrid has acquired seven new Mercedes-Benz Unimogs to upgrade its fleet of overhead electricity line repair vehicles. The new Unimog U5023 UHE Extreme Off-Road models came equipped with Versalift hydraulic booms and buckets for a total cost of £1.75 million. Specialist dealer South Cave Tractors of Brough, East Yorkshire, and its sister company Vehicle Lease & Service (VLS) supplied the new vehicles with a fully serviced contract hire agreement. Northern Powergrid serves 8 million customers across 3.9 million homes and businesses in the North East, Yorkshire, and northern Lincolnshire regions.
The Versalift LT-56-NE telescopic boom on each of Northern Powergrid’s new all-terrain Unimogs provides a working height of up to 20 metres, which is 5 m higher than the electric company’s previous bucket trucks. The boom’s 9-m outreach allows engineers to work around obstacles during powerline repair and replacement. The basket can lift up to 230 kilograms with room for two workers.
“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,” says Northern Powergrid’s Alistair Walton. “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 Unimog U5023
Northern Powergrid’s U5023s have a 12.7-tonne gross vehicle weight. Their legendary traction begins with a torsionally flexible frame and a torque tube suspension system for maximum axle articulation. The 3,850-millimetre wheelbase vehicles also have differential locks on both axles and a standard Central Tyre Inflation system. CTI lets the driver partially deflate the tyres to increase the size of their contact patch with the ground for additional traction.
“Its off-road ability is legendary, of course,” says VLS Commercial Manager Justin Bower. “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.”
“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,” says Walton.
The U5023 is powered by a 5.1-litre four-cylinder engine producing 230 horsepower (170 kilowatts). It can climb grades of up to 100% and can ford up to 1.2 m of water. Coil-sprung portal axles receive power from an electro-pneumatic UG 100/8 transmission and stop their motion via pneumatic disc brakes. The U5023 has a top road speed of 55 mph (89 km/h) and a maximum gross vehicle weight of 14.5 t.
The Universal Unimog
Mercedes’ all-wheel-drive Unimog has been an icon for more than 70 years. Its unusual name is derived from "Universal-Motor-Gerät," or universal motorised device. The 4x4 vehicle has single rear wheels and gross weights of 7.5 to 16.5 t. Its two main forms are an implement carrier with attachment points at the front, side, and rear, and a more torsionally flexible, highly mobile version that can be equipped with various truck bodies.
Options and aftermarket add-ons for the Unimog line include front and rear cameras, lights, power take-offs, electrical jacks, hydraulic connectors, a front implement plate, and roof-mounted beacons. The vehicle’s VarioPilot option, meanwhile, lets the operator slide the steering wheel and instrument cluster from the right to left side of the cab and vice versa.
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