BPA’s team of seven heavy equipment truck drivers haul massive loads of materials across the agency’s 300,000 square-mile service territory to keep the transmission system operational and complete the supply chain cycle. From left: Dave Worden, DJ Scroggie, Jeff Novotny, Mike Sanders, Dan Reid, Derk Moore and Jason Olmsted.
This team of seven big rig drivers is integral to supporting all maintenance work in the region. They haul just about anything, from insulators to construction vehicles, across BPA’s 300,000-square-mile service territory to transmission maintenance sites, substations and construction yards, ensuring supply meets demand on time to support BPA’s mission of providing safe and reliable power. But this leg of the delivery is just one side of the job. The truck drivers also return any old or remaining materials to their home base at the Ross Complex for sorting and recycling at the Investment Recovery Center, completing the full supply chain cycle.
Daily duties may have not changed much during the pandemic for this group, but the conditions around them have. Since March 2020, the team of heavy equipment truck drivers has delivered over 400 loads of material and driven 300,000 miles around the region, despite closures and social distancing requirements associated with the pandemic impacting their normal routes, including overnight layovers. Spending up to four days on the road, they often saw community responses to COVID-19 whittle down their access to important destinations as well as their options while traveling.
“With so many business closures caused by the pandemic, our drivers may drive several additional hours to find what many of us at home may take for granted: lodging and food sources,” said Jerry Shipe, traffic management specialist for Supply Chain Service’s Transportation Management group.
They have made their way through the front lines of the past year’s most treacherous conditions, including intense wildfires and icy snowstorms. Inclement weather that impacts the transmission grid requires emergency call-outs where drivers go outside their regular duties, spending weekends and nights on the road to deliver oversized equipment, sometimes loads up to 100,000 pounds, across the agency’s service territory.
“Transportation seems small in comparison to the many functions needed to keep BPA running, but it’s a critical piece to Supply Chain and a necessary cog that keeps power flowing through the region,” said heavy equipment driver Jason Olmsted, who has been driving big rigs at BPA for nearly four years. “The drivers are a lifeline between the Ross Warehouse and the crews out in the field, and it’s this connection that pushes me to get these teams their products on time and not keep them waiting.”
The truck drivers are also a lifeline to BPA’s utility partners during power crises. After the recent February snowstorm, drivers worked their way through lingering icy conditions to deliver materials purchased by Portland General Electric for emergency repair work.
This fully loaded BPA big rig made its way to Salem, Oregon, the evening of Feb. 19 to deliver transmission line hardware, such as insulators, sold to Portland General Electric for emergency repair work after a snowstorm hit significant portions of the Northwest.
“Our drivers have a can-do attitude and are always willing to lend a helping hand,” said Jeff Haxby, materials handler foreman III for the Ross Warehouse. “They assure BPA will be successful and help meet the needs of our customers, no matter what we are up against.”