Selection of a Fiber Splicing Vehicle

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By Mark Niksic

The features and capabilities of today’s Fiber Optic Splicing Vehicle must be as flexible and dependable as the professional splicers they serve. As the job of the fiber splicer has evolved greatly in recent years, with record miles of fiber optic cable being installed in locations varying from dense urban areas to remote wilderness, so too has the splicer’s home away from home.

Only 15 years ago it seemed the range of vehicles available to the splicer consisted of converted motor homes and horse trailers, or homemade packages installed in everything from pickup trucks to old station wagons.

With today’s industry explosion, the new technological sophistication has not been lost on the manufacturers of the current generation of fiber splicing vehicles. Today, unlike in years past, there are niche vehicles available for almost every need, budget and installation location.

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Hugh Cube Trucks

High cubes have been around almost since the beginning and are the direct descendants of the converted motor home. Unlike motor homes which tended to be expensive and filled with features a splicer may not need, the high cube trucks are an empty room on wheels ready to be filled with the exact furniture and equipment that splicers require. Today’s high cube trucks are usually the biggest vehicles upfitted for fiber splicing and are sometimes equipped with 4-wheel drive for remote location installation.

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Trailers

Some of the first trailers were actually converted horse trailers or cargo trailers. Today this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Manufacturers of modern fiber splicing trailers design their units from the ground up with attention paid to the suspension, body/framework, and equipment features. Most trailers in the field are two axle versions for easier towing and greater on-site stability. Tandem 7000 lb. axles with electric brakes seem today to be the industry standard. Lightweight and unquestionably strong aluminum frames have all but replaced heavyweight and rust prone steel frame constructed trailers. As in the frame area, aluminum structural upper bodies covered with aluminum sheeting are quickly replacing steel upper bodies that were carried over from the horse trailers, or FRP, a light duty material left over from the RV/motor home industry. The newest model, “POD”, on the market today, is all aluminum and fiberglass construction weighing less than 2000 lbs. Today’s trailers must have the critical combination of light weight and great strength to deliver years of service without undue stress on the tow vehicle.

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Vans

Vans fill a need where small vehicle size is important. Most are 3/4 ton to one ton cargo vans, some equipped with a high roof conversion for increased head room. With fluorescent lighting, air conditioning and a properly installed generator, splicing in a converted cargo van can be quite acceptable even with the diminished space.

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Slide-In Labs for Pickups

A more recent addition to the fiber splicing vehicle lineup is the slide-in lab for installation into full size pickups with 8’ long beds. Based in concept on the slide-in pickup camper, these units can be fitted with air conditioning, counter tops, cable entry ports and other common features of their industry cousins. Power generation can come from on-board or portable generators, power inverters, or underhood belt driven generators. Like the slide-in camper used for recreation, weight is a critical factor, but unlike campers which may only be used a half dozen times a year, the slide-in lab must be built to withstand daily use in a variety of locations. These types of units, when mounted to a four wheel drive pickup, can be taken into areas never before accessible by the standard fiber splicing vehicle.

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Specialty Vehicles

There are vehicles today that are built to accomplish two or more tasks. One of these is the fiber splicing body mounted on an aerial lift chassis cab. These specially built custom vehicles offer aerial splicers a new and important tool in their effort to complete quality splices quickly and efficiently. Most of these bodies are mounted on 1½ ton chassis cabs or larger and have booms with 30 feet or more of reach. A custom splicing body mounted on a Hum-vee/Hummer chassis takes the slide-in lab on a 4x4 pickup to the next level for off road capability.

To summarize, the choice of vehicles available to serve the fiber optic splicer is more extensive today than at any time in the past. These units, however, tend to be relatively low volume production units and are often semi-custom or fully custom in their development. Be wary of suspiciously low prices for the lack of value may become readily apparent, albeit too late. As with any large purchase, a fair amount of research should be done prior to the time of product selection to not only define your vehicle needs, but to also determine which supplier can best fulfill your requirements.

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Your chosen supplier should be able to clearly outline your choices and effectively match them to your requirements prior to purchase. They must be able to help with the selection, delivery, and licensing of your new vehicle, and most importantly, be there to assist you in the years after the purchase.

Mark Niksic is General Manager of Pelsue Company.

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