The Lineman Knowledge Quiz

Brian Whitney

Image: Ariel Skelley / DigitalVision / Getty Images

About This Quiz

We all know about linemen and what they do, at least in theory.  We see them every day. Without them, our lives wouldn't exist as we know it. They are outside in all sorts of conditions, working to keep our electricity running, sometimes in the worst conditions imaginable. They have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, year after year they come up on lists of jobs with the most fatalities, but still, how much do we actually know about all of the men and women who do this job? The job first came to be in the days of the telegraph way back in the 1840s, is still going strong today and shows no sign of slowing down.

How much do you know about this job? Do you know how much voltage goes into the average house? Do you know what the average age of a lineman is, or what they call a platform board? Most importantly, do you know what a mole, a goatskin or a baloney bender is? If you do, you probably already are a lineman, are pretty close to someone who is, or are a natural for the job. Take this quiz and we'll test your knowledge about linemen.

Linemen have to climb a lot, Is it suggested that linemen use spikes to climb poles?

Linemen don't have to worry about hurting the poles that they climb on by using spikes. This is different from tree climbers, as if they spike a tree too badly the tree could possibly die.

Do only rookies have to wear harnesses while on the job?

You would be hard pressed to find a lineman who doesn't wear a safety harness, and if you do see one, he or she will soon be out of a job. Safety is the very top priority in this field.

Linemen have a lingo all of their own, what is a "Goatskin"?

Linemen have an interesting slang all of their own. A "Goatskin" is a tarp that is used to cover jobs that are left for periods of time when the weather is bad and could cause damage.

Being strapped in is important, what is the belt called that keeps the lineman strapped to the pole?

A D-Belt is used by all linemen when climbing poles and towers for positioning. These belts support their lower back and allow them to lean back and work with both hands, which matters on this type of job.

What is the usual minimum educational level needed to be a lineman?

While there isn't a lot of formal education needed, they do want to know that you stuck with something and succeeded. Almost all linemen jobs require one to have at least a grade 12 education.

If you mentioned "moles" to a lineman, what would you mean?

This is another example of how funny, interesting and unique linemen slang can be. Moles spend most of their time underground, so all workers who do underground work go by that nickname.

All linemen know their way around a platform board. What do they call it?

This is another great example of the slang that linemen use every day on the job. Sure, you're OK if you just know what a platform board is, but if you call it a baker board you get extra points.

What does a lineman want if they ask you to pass them a banjo?

Some of these slang words make no sense to the average person, while others, like this one for example, do. You have to admit a shovel looks a bit like a banjo. At least kind of anyway.

What would a lineman be reading if they were checking out the Bible?

While a lineman might not get a whole lot of grief at work if they were reading a real Bible, it probably wouldn't help them a whole lot. What they mean when they say "Bible" is a codebook.

How long can training last to be considered a true lineman?

Being a lineman is a difficult job and one that can be dangerous and come with an enormous responsibility. It can take up to 4 years before a worker is considered fully trained for the job.

What could you do in high school if you were interested in becoming a lineman?

You have to be 18 years old to be a lineman, but that doesn't mean there is nothing you can do while in high school. A local career center might be able to set you up with some training to get you ready for the job.

Some of these poles are huge; what is the average length of a pole in the U.S?

All of us see these poles every day, but do most of us ever actually try and figure out how tall they are? Most of the electrical poles you're going to see are going to be right around 40 feet.

You might not think about this, but how far do the poles go under ground?

If a pole is sticking 40 feet high out of the ground, it needs to be deep enough in the ground to keep it stable. Most poles are set around 6 feet deep, which is enough to keep them safe and secure.

Do you know what the big white transformers are for on the poles?

A lot of us don't pay attention to things around us, while others do. If you have ever noticed the transformers on the poles, they are to reduce voltage. There is a lot of energy there that needs to be harnessed.

Do you know the reason why the power lines don't drain energy into the pole itself?

The whole mechanism of how energy gets into your house is rather amazing. Insulators are used to protect the pole from the dangerous effects of electricity flowing through conductors.

You might not like to be called "Guy," but do you know what a guy wire is for?

You might not think of a guy wire as being all that important, but they really are. They help keep the pole stable and safe from falling down and when you think of it, what is more important than that?

You might not want to think of it, but what is a Booger wire?

The only thing we can come up with here is that linemen just get bored like everyone else. Why else would they call a neutral wire by the name "booger wire"? Electricians use this, too.

When it comes to lineman slang, what is "Baloney"?

This is probably why you need 4 years of training. If you didn't would you think a wire was called "baloney"? Although who knows, maybe you could pick that up on the very first day.

You might eat a lot of baloney, but what might a baloney bender be?

We have already established that "baloney" is lineman slang for wire, so what could a baloney bender be? Why someone who carries heavy wire of course. Picture someone carrying wire and you'll get it.

Your first thought might be about gambling, but what is a "bookie tool"?

When you think of linemen, you might not think of staples. Why would they need those? Well the wires have to be placed somehow, and large industrial-sized staples are what keep them in place.

If someone asked you for a bookie wheel, what do they want?

A lot of what linemen do is tough macho work, and dangerous as well, but a lot of it involves a lot of precision. A "bookie wheel" is something that is used to do very precise measurements.

If a "Boomer" were to show up for work, who would you be meeting?

While there tends to be a lot of stability in this sort of business, there also can be a lot of movement from job to job. A "Boomer' is someone who for whatever reason tends to move around a lot.

There is a bullpen in baseball, but what is it when it comes to linemen?

When it comes to baseball, a bullpen is where relief pitchers hang out before, and sometimes after they pitch. For linemen, the bullpen serves the same purpose, someplace to congregate.

Have you ever heard of a vehicle called a cherry picker? If so, what is it?

While you might wonder how a lot of things got their names, the cherry picker isn't one of them. This is the type of truck needed to work way up high, like, you know, picking cherries.

What kind of lineman might a "drifter" be?

A drifter is the type of lineman who wants to travel a lot. This is not unheard of in this industry, as often linemen move around the country to help in times of massive electrical outages.

Do you know where all the electricity comes from, anyway?

While sometimes it's easy to just look at the electricity all around us and not care where it comes from, it all comes from a power plant somewhere. Do you know where your electrical source is?

What are the lines called that run from the local substations to the poles?

The definition of a distribution line is a line or system for distributing power from a transmission system to a consumer. You see these all the time, without these there is no power.

It usually is a long way from the power plant to the substation. What are the lines called that carry the electricity there?

The transmission lines are crucial to the whole process of how electricity gets to your home or business. A transmission substation exists to connect two or more transmission lines.

What is the average amount of wires that carry electricity from the substations back to the electrical transmission towers?

Another thing that you might not think about often is whether the amount of wires that you see are important. The answer is yes they are, which is why there are just about always three of them.

Do you have any idea how much voltage you can get in your household?

240 volts is the max for your home. Voltages may vary from 110 to 120 on a single line conductor and from 220 to 240 volts on a conductor pair. But often the active measured voltage doesn't hit 120.

Do linemen ever have to work over a 40-hour week?

Linemen are known to put in an incredible amount of overtime, especially in areas where the power is known to go out because of bad weather. If you're willing to put in the hours, you can make a lot of money.

Is being a lineman considered dangerous, or is that just hype?

Being a lineman is a very dangerous job. Studies are done year after year and line workers are just about always in the top 10 most dangerous professions based on annual fatalities.

What is the average age of a lineman in the United States?

This one is a bit surprising, but it is because not all that many young people take on this job. Being a lineman is the type of thing people tend to do for life, so the average age is around 50.

If you want to be a lineman, how old do you have to be?

While being a lineman isn't the most difficult occupation to get into, there are standards and one of them is how old you are. You have to be at least 18 years old to be a lineman.

Which of these is considered one of the largest electrical companies in the United States?

Duke Energy has its corporate offices in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2016 its net assets were listed at $132.76 billion. It is one of the largest energy corporations in the world.

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