We speak with Ryan of DM-Tech about how essential his work truck is to getting the job done efficiently, with a 42-foot extending bucket and organized compartments for equipment and materials.

  • Installations in rural areas are made much easier with a bucket lift where ladders cannot be used safely.
  • Each storage bin/compartment has a lock, but bottom shelves can get wet during heavy rain.
  • Ryan’s Ford F550 is a diesel engine and he says it gets about 9 miles per gallon.
  • While the bucket gets regular use on the job, the winch at the front rarely does.

Q: What do you like the most about your work truck?

A: What I like most about my truck is the man lift. When it is fully extended, it’s 42 feet up. A lot of times it gets me into places that would either be challenging to get to or I couldn't get to at all with a ladder. With the bucket, I am able to do installations out in very rural areas--like on decommissioned windmills or large barns where it wouldn't be safe to be on a ladder. I'm sure you have seen them on the side of the road where there's the old, falling-apart barn that you wouldn't imagine climbing. But if I can get up to the peak with the man lift I can run the cable down up underneath the eave safely, it's no problem.

Q: What’s it like getting in and out of the bucket of the lift?

A: Anytime I want to get in the lift, I have to step on a step and then step on the rim, and then step inside. I used to have a man lift with an actual door. Some less expensive man lifts have a cutout on the side, which is kind of a pain, but still easier than what I have to do now.

Q: It sounds like you use your man-lift most of the time. Do you store a ladder on your truck?

A: There is a shelf on my truck for storing a fiberglass extension ladder but I don’t use that type of ladder. I have what’s called a little giant. They sell them at Costco. It opens up and extends as you unfold it. I normally just slide my ladder right between the man-lift bucket and the side of the truck. It would be much easier if I could just put my ladder up on a rack and then padlock it, rather than having to lean over the side of the truck to grab the ladder.

Q: Are all the tools you need here on the truck?

A: I store everything I need on this truck. Every bin has a lock. I guess you're kind of limited by design, but it just seems like very random. Maybe it was tailored more for PG&E, which is what this truck was meant for. The storage bins are all very oddball sized. There’s a bunch of small holes up underneath the body of the truck so when I drive around in the winter or when it's been raining, anything that I've had on any of the bottom shelves gets wet.

Q: If you could change anything on the storage, what would it be?

A: If I could change the storage around--just like when you buy something from IKEA or Walmart and you can move the shelves around--that would be great. There's a lot of vehicles for ISP technicians with shelving that is designed around storage bins. My van had that type of storage.

Q: How is the fuel efficiency on this diesel Ford F-550?

A: It is not fuel-efficient. I get about 9 miles to the gallon. If it's just a regular old run-of-the-mill job a city away, I'll have my other technician go because his truck gets probably two and a half to three times the gas mileage of this. This truck is a four-wheel drive and I have used it once because I almost got stuck. It could probably almost go vertical up a mud hill. But, yep, it's diesel and it's about $110 to fill it up from almost empty. If I were to drive a full route every day with this, I would probably have to gas up every three days.

Q: Any interesting quirks about having this older truck?

A: This truck does have what they call the “death wobble,” which is as terrifying as it sounds. Between about 45 and 55 mph, if it's below a half a tank of gas, the front wheels start to vibrate back and forth. If I'm at or above half a tank of gas, it seems to do better. When that happens, I found that if I just barely turned the steering wheel that it goes away and straightens out. But before I knew that, I would have to slow all the way down to a dead stop. Not 5 mph or 7 mph. All the way down to a dead stop and then start my acceleration again.

Q: Do you use the winch that is on the front of the truck when you’re doing rural installations?

A: I don't ever intend on using the winch. I was thinking about getting rid of that front, solid-steel bumper with the winch and getting the regular Ford full-size truck bumper on it. I feel like maybe that would help with the death wobble.