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Prinoth works with Australian customer on special narrow Panther T12 vehicle

Standard equipment not up to the task? A custom machine can meet the challenge.

When a job requires more than an off-the-shelf solution, one avenue is to explore a manufacturer’s custom capabilities.

A case in point is how Prinoth, working in tandem with its Australian dealer GMJ Equipment, created a solution for an electric distribution company that is spreading to other customers in the country.

Soft underfoot conditions can be especially problematic for Powercor Australia, serving 1.2 million customers in the southeastern Australian state of Victoria. The company, charged with installing and maintaining powerlines, poles and/or transformers, often found itself on steep slopes in muddy conditions.

The equipment Powercor used – truck-mounted elevated work platforms – wasn’t up to the task. “When you get into rough and wet terrain, they sink and were unstable on hill sides,” says David Johnson, operational fleet specialist with the company.

When this happened, other issues ensued. Extracting the trucks from the situation could mean the work area needed to be restored after the job was finished.

The off-road capabilities of the Prinoth Panther T8 tracked vehicle caught the attention of Powercor. Coupled with GMJ Equipment’s LL18.50 mobile elevated work platform, the Panther T8 allowed crews to easily access whatever jobsite conditions were thrown at them, exerting just 4.1 psi ground pressure when fully loaded.

“The Prinoths make little damage,” Johnson says. Perhaps more important: productivity has increased. “We can get the equipment where we previously couldn’t get it in the wetter months,” he says. Powercor started using Panther T8s in 2015 and now has three in its fleet.

One problem down. The next one, however, required more than a standard fix. Enter Prinoth’s Factory Application Service, dedicated to meeting customer’s special requests.

Second request

The Panther T8/GMJ tower proved itself in giving Powercor crews safe elevated access, so the company approached GMJ Equipment with a second request: Could Prinoth provide a carrier that was large enough to carry a crane borer but one that also met Australia’s Heavy Vehicle National Law of a maximum 2.5-meter (8.2-foot) vehicle width?

The Panther T12 would provide the needed heft to carry a Premier Proline 1015-T crane borer. The only problem: it was about 76.2 millimeters (3 inches) too wide to meet the road regulation. Larger vehicles require permits and pilots and are unable to access certain roads, all critical considerations in Powercor’s emergency response capabilities.

“The width was important because if I get over 2.5-meters wide I have to run a constant permit,” Peterson says. “We needed a machine that I could run 24/7 without any restrictions.”

“This width reduction was quite significant since we had to think about how everything would fit in the new design,” says Doug Little, Prinoth director of sales.

What Prinoth engineers didn’t want, however, is to create a “Frankenstein” vehicle different from every other Panther T12. “We wanted it to be as close to the standard T12 as possible,” Little says.

So instead of starting from each side and going inward, engineers took the unwanted space out of the middle of the chassis. “While it created some challenges with the engine mount and fuel tank positioning, most of the components stayed the same so we could make servicing simple,” Little says.

“Most of our custom work is done after the standard vehicle is produced,” says Guillaume Cyr, Prinoth application engineer. “This one required us to complete it before production and make sure we could fabricate it on our assembly line.”

Little points out, however, that Prinoth’s customization ability is something the company has built its reputation on. Customizing a machine can be as simple as adding an extra light to a complex reinvention of a vehicle.

The resulting “Narrow T12” is registered in Australia as a special purpose road vehicle and can operate on easements and on public land.

“It allows us to operate in wet weather and mountainous terrain without having to cut a track,” Peterson says. “We can get them into some amazing spots.” Equipping them with extra-long stabilizers, Powercor can also level the units on a 15-degree slope. “It’s a lot safer to take these units up into the mountainous areas.”

“Prinoth’s willingness to go above and beyond for the customer is something that has always stood out,” says Jamie Cetraro, design engineer with dealer GMJ Equipment. “If Prinoth were not willing to make these changes then the project may never have gone ahead. It has now paved the way for a new type of equipment in the industry.”

Taking note of Powercor’s success, other companies have ordered the Panther T8/Narrow T12 solution, including Energy Queensland, which serves an estimated 2.3 million customers. Another customer, Arthur Contracting, has bought the T8/T12 duo and is leasing the machines to power companies.

“We’ve found is that with every T8/GMJ tower customers want to couple it with a T12/Proline since they work so well in tandem,” says Cetraro.

The Prinoths take on different roles in Victoria’s diverse geography. They will work throughout Victoria’s coastal wet autumn season, and tackle desert sands in the summer. “We can actually use them all year round in different applications,” Johnson says.

“We will entertain any idea and we’re always learning something in the process,” Little says.