In 2003, an electric cooperative based in southern Minnesota was seeking an alternative local trailer supplier.
Having heard of Felling Trailers, the co-op connected with Laurie Engle, one of Felling’s sales consultants. At the time, Felling had been building cable reel trailers for 10 years but still was considered relatively new to the utility industry.
Engle worked with the cooperative to configure a triple reel trailer to meet their company’s needs, jumpstarting a 15-year partnership.
“Laurie treated me well and has been nothing short of fabulous since the day we first talked,” the co-op’s operations manager said.
The cable reel trailer that started the partnership was retired from service, and the co-op placed a new unit, an FT-30-3 Triple Reel, in service in early 2018. The cooperative currently has five Felling cable reel trailers in service, with varying features and capacities.
Here are a few of the features incorporated in the build of the FT-30-3 Triple Reel that Felling says were selected to increase time efficiency and worker safety:
- A-frame reel stands: The trailer is equipped with three bolt-on reel stands designed to provide accessibility for operators loading cable reels with a forklift, vs. loading with a boom truck. The loading versatility saves time and reduces safety risks. A bonus with bolt-on reel stands is they can be moved when there is a need to adjust the tongue load, ensuring proper weight distribution when towing.
- Custom air tank: The large air tank is located in the hitch with a pressure gauge, shut-off valve and airline for the operation of the air brake system. “It is common for the Cooperative to deliver the reel trailer to job sites loaded with cable so that the contractors can start boring the cable underground before the cooperative’s crew is needed on site,” the operations manager said. “However, where the trailer is left on the job site isn’t always where the contractor needs it to be for the boring and without an air brake-equipped truck, moving the trailer would be more like dragging the trailer.” The air tank feature provides the necessary air pressure for operation of the air brake system, allowing the trailer to be moved to the needed location on the job site.
- Catwalk: As with the majority of electric cooperatives, the spring and fall of the year are the co-op’s busiest times. With these times of year comes a variance of weather extremes, especially in Minnesota. It is not out of the ordinary to have ice and snow in late May or early October. The varying weather and working conditions played a strong factor in the construction of the FT-30-3 Triple Reel’s catwalk feature. The catwalk runs the length of the trailer from headboard to fender and fender to tailboard. Constructed with grip strut with an approximate width of 10 inches, bracing then runs underneath with a rear lip to prevent fall through.
- Safety & Stability: Additional features that were selected for this trailer were two rear pull pin stabilizer legs and rubber wheel chocks. When deployed, these two features work together to maintain the stability of the trailer and integrity of the load.
FT-30-3 Triple Reel trailers are used to haul large underground cable from job to job, but these units are only a few of the Felling trailers in the co-op’s fleet.
“Our fleet consists of 35 trailers, 20 of these are Felling trailers,” the operations manager said. “The capacity and function of the trailers range from dump boxes (hydraulic dump trailers), to cable trailers and flatbeds (both drop deck and deck over). The dump boxes are used to haul dirt and sand to and from job sites. We also use them to haul logs and tree debris when we are trimming trees.
“The newest update to our drop deck trailers is to galvanize them. They are out quite a bit in the winter hauling our mini excavators to and from job sites, (and) the galvanizing will help them last longer in dealing with the winter elements.
“These trailers help the work run smoothly. They are good, well-built trailers, (and) they work great for us.”