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Testing times.

Another Unimog U 5023 for French energy company RTE.

Good things come to those who wait: a maxim also observed by Yannick Schneider, Head of the RTE task force from Mulhouse-Illzach. The Unimog fan had waited a whole three years to receive one of the highly coveted off-road special trucks for his team. The white and blue wonder is now in operation – and has proven to be worth its weight in gold.

Seventh new Unimog for RTE.

RTE operates the entire high-voltage grid in France. And has taken more than a passing interest in the Unimog: over the last two years the company has acquired seven Unimog models, distributed among its sites. And with good reason: the teams sent to maintain and repair the masts and cables often come up against rough terrain. Without superb off-road capability, these are impossible tasks.

Schneider’s team is at work – on the steel masts of a 63,000 V power line which is surrounded by reeds as high as the employees themselves. A dream environment for the Unimog. The area is regularly flooded by the river Ill, which makes access even more challenging. Aisles are needed just for teams to be able to reach the “big reed”. “Colleagues from other teams received all-wheel drive trucks and cannot take the chance in this type of terrain,” explains Schneider. There are clear disadvantages here, for example when providing tools and equipment that cannot be transported with a pick-up.

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Individual vehicle – Individually configured.

The team from the Alsace region not only pushed for the new Unimog but also had it configured to their requirements. Not such an easy task considering the wealth of possibilities the vehicle has to offer. Thanks to the current Unimog boom at RTE, however, the team was able to refer to their colleagues in Metz when it came to their vehicle plans. When the final product finally arrived, Yannick Schneider already knew exactly what he could expect from the Unimog U 5023: space for repairs and tools, a solution for heavy loads – and, of course, superb off-road capability.

A powerhouse with plenty of space.

No sooner said than done: the box body boasts endless space – and headroom, which allows for a comfortable work space in the vehicle’s workshop. Tools can be stowed in compartments both inside and outside the vehicle. This impressive all-rounder even boasts storage space on the roof: this is where the aluminium ladders are kept – including safe access via the body’s outer wall.

In order to ensure that not only people but also loads can move in all directions, the front winch of the Unimog from Schlang & Reichart boasts a tractive force of 6,000 kg. Parking brakes on all wheels ensure the U 5023 is kept firmly on the ground, even when using the winch under maximum load. “We also installed a capstan winch, which allows us to heave heavy parts or cables onto the masts,” explains Schneider, with a satisfied glance toward the special truck. A vehicle lift from Bär has also been attached to the rear, for carrying loads of up to 2 t into the box body using a low-platform truck.

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Off-road capability – Familiar territory.

The full effect of the Unimog’s special features is also realised when driving: if the pylons are not surrounded by reeds but instead farmed fields, the sensitive soil is at risk of being damaged by the vehicle. The “tirecontrol plus” tyre pressure control system, operated from the cab, protects the subsoil by releasing air from the tyres before the vehicle is driven over cultivated land, thus increasing the bearing surface of the tyres. The Unimog protects itself from unwanted scratches with a branch deflector for the cab.

And last but not least, a 220 V power supply allows for live working. Electrical machinery and heaters for drying specially required rods can be connected without a problem.

Yannick Schneider and his team are delighted with the extras added to their Unimog. According to Schneider, the success of the entire endeavour lies with the unique off-road capability of the Unimog – because this, he explains, is what sets it apart from the rest. Something they would have otherwise been waiting a long time for.

Source: Transport Magazine
Text: Hans Müller
Photos: Olivier Bos

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