Aaron LeBlanc: Lineman, YouTube Star, and First-Time Attendee at The Utility Expo



Aaron LeBlanc - Lineman BloggerAaron LeBlanc has been a lineman in Atlantic Canada since 2000. He’s done well in that position but what sets LeBlanc apart from other linemen is his presence on social media. He’s a linemen blogger and a YouTube personality and has seen great results there. His episode 34, “Being a Lineman,” got nearly a quarter-million views in its first 30 days online. Granted, that’s a standout example, but his videos routinely get 10,000 views per week.

First-time impressions of The Utility Expo

The Utility Expo 2023 was the first time LeBlanc had attended the show. His initial impressions of that first time? “It was huge. We have nothing like it in our part of Canada or anywhere nearby.” He was impressed by the cleanliness and the organization, “especially for an event of this size.” Shuttle buses. Signage. Open layout with plenty of space indoors and out. Entrance; LeBlanc and his two colleagues had pre-registered and were inside the main hall in a matter of minutes. LeBlanc wore two hats—or helmets—at the show: lineman and blogger. At one outdoor exhibit he got up in an 80-foot boom truck to get photos of the show for use on his YouTube channel.

“We walked 50 kilometers [31 miles] over three days and were never lost, could always find food and wash rooms, and easily navigated to the exhibits that were priorities for us to see.” Despite the time and distance, “we saw maybe half the exhibits. But that was mostly because exhibitors were so generous with their time and information.”

Value of The Utility Expo

Access to exhibitors was a key value component for LeBlanc. Equally important was that “everyone was really friendly and easygoing and there was no sales pressure.” Time spent with other attendees was highly valuable, as well. “We talked to three or four hundred people, all like-minded, seeking solutions and innovations just as we were.” One innovation was a fully-electric boom truck. “We wouldn’t see that in our area for another 10 years.”

LeBlanc says there has been a major push in the industry to improve the worker experience and to improve ergonomics, in particular. “You used to tell people you were going to be a lineman and they’d say, ‘That’s fine, but you’re going to wreck your back, your shoulders, your elbows,’ and they were right because of the rigors of the job.” He cites the example of using bolt cutters to cut guy wires. The sudden release at the end of the cut sent shock waves up the lineman’s arms. “Doing that all day led to all sorts of health problems. Now you just pull a trigger.” He says there’s now equipment, much of it battery powered, to do virtually any task and that with the countless available attachments, most tasks can be done at the end of a hot stick with the lineman 12 feet away from the point of tool contact. “There’s a lot of emerging technology that I hadn’t seen or even heard of and it was all at The Utility Expo.”

He says he understands why some contractors are reluctant to send employees to the Expo. “Say it costs you several thousand in airfare, ground transportation, lodging and meals to send three employees to The Utility Expo. That’s peanuts compared to the investment in a million-dollar piece of equipment. And at the Expo you can see that equipment first-hand, talk to the engineers, and really learn about the features and benefits it offers.” He says he saw a lot of owners and executives, “and I get why they’re there. They need information to make good business decisions plus it’s time away from the office for them. But we need more boots-on-the-ground workers at the show to learn what’s available and how to get the most out of the equipment.”

Why YouTube?

LeBlanc says he’s not sure when he started his YouTube channel; he guesses 12 or 15 years before we spoke with him. Why YouTube? “No particular reason.” But he knows it was four years prior to our interview that he shifted the focus to his work as a lineman, and for that he had a clear purpose. “I wanted to educate the public.” Even though what linemen do is essential to the quality of life and welfare of the populace, few members of the public have any understanding of what the job entails.

Did it work? “Response was slow initially. Then I started getting other linemen as followers. Eventually the public started showing up and now my list of followers is roughly a fifty-fifty mix of others in the industry and members of the public.” And he has seen a shift in public attitudes. “It used to be if we were working behind someone’s house for three hours they’d come out complaining and angry: ‘What are you doing on my property?’ Now they come out and say, ‘Hey, I saw you on YouTube,’ and they offer us coffee.”

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