By Carl Lamers
One of the most common complaints I hear from Line Clearance Tree Trimmers concerns the work requests they are given. These work requests are used to direct the crew foremen to the specific trees they need to trim when trimming for PG&E.
Tree trimming foremen are concerned that most of the people writing the work requests have little to no knowledge of tree physiology, growth habits of trees, and the reality of utility line clearance trimming. There are also complaints of poor addressing or directions to find the trees they are required to trim.
My own experiences in regard to addressing have been extremely frustrating. At times I spent in excess of half an hour searching for a tree I could not find, all the while aware I would be accused of not being productive.
But when foremen tell supervision about the short comings of the work requests it is sometimes met with derision or insults.
The work requests are written by third party companies such as non-union Davey Expert, ACRT or WECI. Very few of the employees of these companies are long term, most are very young and lack experience.
What is referred to as the “prescribed clearances” for these trees often is injurious or fatal to the tree. One of the duties of the people that write the work requests is to get permission from the property owners for access and permission to do the work. When the trimming crews arrive they will tell the property owner what the prescribed clearances are, only to be told by the owner that the prescription is excessive and will make an eye sore out of their tree. It is common for the owners to tell crews that no one talked to them about trimming their tree. Crews have been ordered off the property by the owners. For many years the clearances have been eight to twelve feet; now most prescribed clearances are 16-20 feet.
The trimming crews are probably the most visible people to property owners in this scenario. On one hand they have the work request, and on the other a possibly very unhappy property owner. The trimming crews are prohibited from showing the work request to the owner, which is understandable as some times the work request will have a direction to TTK, trim to kill, or FT, fatal trim. If they were to explain this to the property owner you can imagine the resistance they would face. If prescription is not followed there is the likelihood of a failed audit, which could result in termination.
Tree trimmers are understandably upset about these situations and are looking for assistance to do something about it.
Carl Lamers is Business Representative, IBEW Local 1245