To morning commuters, the hulking truck encircled with barricades and traffic cones may be nothing more than a road-clogging nuisance.
For Kerem Tepecik and Dale Vith, two men who've made a good living by changing light bulbs forty feet above the pavement, the so-called "bucket truck" is more ominous.
"Every time I go up, I wonder if this is the day I'll die", says Tepecik, a married father of two. "We call it the "prayer bucket".
Naturally, spending hours swaying in the Texas wind while dismantling high voltage light fixtures as angry drivers on the street below zoom past, the two electricians shared a single thought. "There's got to be a better way."
"After a couple of near-death experiences, where a truck nearly fell on me or on him", says Vith, the pair began to learn the truth of Edison's dictum, "Invention is one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration."
Taking a cue from "High masts" (200 foot light poles used on freeway cloverleaf overpasses) with their built-in lowering systems, Vith and Tepecik spent nights and weekends designing and building prototypes of their "Retropole", a patented crank-and-rail attachment which safely disconnects and lowers the light for servicing.
The system is now in church parking lots, fast-food drive-thrus, and at the headquarters of a nationally-famous family restaurant chain, whose management is in the process of rolling out "Retropole" in locations nationwide.
Following a soft launch in May/June '05, the new company's small staff has been thrilled by the reaction on the part of customers of every size.
With retail prices under $1000, the systems pay for themselves the third time a light bulb is changed. Easy DIY maintenance and low cost of operation (bucket trucks charge $200-$300 for minor service calls, whereas the bulbs are sold for $20 at home improvement stores) appeal to maintenance staff.
Perhaps more significant, though, is the invention's positive impact on property value.
"For every dollar a property's annual maintenance cost drops, ten dollars is added to the property's value" explains Tepecik.
The implications of this have lead two major Texas-based manufacturers to gear up for enormous production runs.
"Kerem and Dale are two good guys who worked hard to bring a terrific idea to life. How often does an idea come along that helps with so many issues-safety, environment, and so on, that also helps large businesses save a fortune?" says Sherman Allen, marketing director of the Dallas based Retropole, llc.
He notes that "bucket trucks" are leaky behemoths which cause concrete and landscaping damage, and, in terms of fuel, the 13-ton monsters "make Hummers look like econo-boxes."
In an ironic twist, the success of Retropole will keep Vith and Tepecik in the "prayer bucket", since the one-hour installation of the mechanism requires one final ascent for removal of the light fixture.
Tepecik says he's considering a sign on the truck that says "I'm never coming here again." http://www.retropole.com
For more information contact:
Director of Sales and Marketing