For covering local news, the CBC uses three Kenworths with custom-built mobile production units worth about $800,000-$1 million each.  Photo: CBC

For covering local news, the CBC uses three Kenworths with custom-built mobile production units worth about $800,000-$1 million each. Photo: CBC

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) needed a truck that could turn on a dime and carry a heavy load, so Mario Gionet, corporate fleet senior manager for CBC Radio-Canada, decided to look into Kenworth and its line of cabovers.

CBC’s fleet operates several small trucks built on the Mercedes Sprinter platform that are used for news gathering and obtaining live shots of an event. However, its bread and butter for covering local news are three custom-built mobile production units — two Kenworth K270 Class 6 cabovers with 14-ft. bodies on 142-in. wheelbases and one Kenworth K370 Class 7 cabover with a 17-ft. body on a 182-in. wheelbase. Because the CBC broadcasts in both English and French, technicians must carry double the camera equipment, which the Kenworths can accommodate.

CBC serves as the national public broadcaster for both radio and television across Canada. Every vehicle in CBC’s fleet, most of which are located in Montreal, is under Gionet’s supervision. CBC also covers the news globally with vehicles in Los Angeles, China, Russia, and Israel.

Carrying the Load

Before switching to the Kenworth cabovers, CBC used a freight truck with a front-engine mount nose.

“The operations group requested a truck to be used in downtown Montreal for easy maneuverability and making sharper turns, while at the same time having the ability to carry a heavy payload,” Gionet says. “In that regard, Kenworth was the perfect choice for us.”

Gionet developed the truck’s specs with his engineering department, which built all the technical equipment that rides in the back of the vehicle. They worked together to provide a truck for the three technicians onboard so they can add more gear to their existing equipment without going over the vehicle’s weight capacity.

Staying Local

The Kenworths don’t travel much — no more than 20,000 km (about 12,400 miles) per year —however, the main challenge is to be on location and ready to go at all times. For the most part, the trucks are stationed in downtown Montreal, so they travel about 5 km per day for a shoot before returning to headquarters.

That said, the CBC has sent vehicles to large events or to cover disasters, such as Hurricane Irma in Florida. “We never know when the trucks are going to hit the road for a long trip or stay around and cover local stories,” Gionet says. “We are driven by the importance of the news.”

Keeping Up With Maintenance

The trucks are so specialized and expensive (about $800,000-$1 million each) that they can’t easily be replaced.

“If one truck breaks down, I can’t turn around and rent one,” Gionet says. “The news is at the moment, so if something really important is happening, we have to be there. We keep close eyes on regular maintenance. We’ll replace parts sooner instead of waiting for a breakdown.”

Gionet recalls a breakdown while covering a wild fire in Western Canada. The technical equipment onboard still worked, so they sent a tow truck to move the vehicle from the site where it was disabled to the scene of the fire to ensure they would be on the air for the news without placing the technicians in danger.

Because the CBC doesn’t have its own maintenance shop, Gionet relies on Kenworth Montreal’s maintenance and minor repairs program. He also has a maintenance and fuel plan through ARI, a fleet management company, to utilize ARI’s repair network in case of a breakdown far from home.

Because CBC crosses into the U.S. to cover stories, the trucks are equipped with electronic logging devices (ELD) to comply with the new U.S. regulation. Canada will begin to implement ELDs in January 2019, and they will be mandatory by 2020.

The ELD systems are equipped with GPS, allowing Gionet to track drivers in remote areas, understand mechanical issues, and route vehicles closest to an event.

Changing Technology

When CBC is ready to sell its vehicles, it’s usually because media technology has changed, not because the vehicle is at the end of its lifecycle. Most of the technical equipment is recovered for use in a studio and the truck is sent to auction.

“The trucks can only operate with that particular technical equipment, so once the technology needs replaced, the truck is of no use to us,” Gionet says. “We need a new truck with a whole new body.”