Better Roads Staff
“An operator needs to do hands on testing,”
— Matt Dolan, City of West Des Moines, Iowa
The training program focuses on three key areas: pre-trip/classroom training, a hands-on skill course and a road critique, explains Matt Dolan, a Level 3 equipment operator with the city and an instructor for the program. He says the hands-on experience is invaluable, particularly because equipment operators are training in the same machines they operate on a day-to-day basis. “An operator needs to do hands on testing,” Dolan says, speaking from his own operator experience.
Nathan Geil, another seasoned West Des Moines equipment operator, adds: “It’s important that agencies send in their own equipment so that operators don’t spend two days training on a piece of equipment that they will not be operating.”
It is also important operators experience as much realism as possible with procedures and situations, Dolan says. The training, which takes place at the city’s local fairgrounds, is a fully enclosed course with realistic road conditions.
Some of the maintenance issues created for trainees to notice include a serpentine belt removed, a wiper blade taken off, a mechanic pouring oil over a seal to simulate leaking oil, a safety belt missing from a truck, a valve stem cap missing from a tire, and a fire extinguisher missing from a truck. These are real maintenance issues, Geil says, but they can go unnoticed.
Dolan says the training works because it’s “realistic, overall cost is about $80 for two days of training, it keeps students busy, students are trained on their own equipment by operators from their own agency, and it’s a balance of classroom and hands-on training.”
“You can’t lecture operators for eight hours,” Geil says. “Their eyes will glaze over and you’ll lose the students, so we get them out in the field. We also have a roundtable with a trainer and the other operators.”
Winter Programs for the Ages
“Sustainability” is an increasingly influential factor in developing winter maintenance programs
Sustainability in snow removal and winter maintenance is about setting goals, embracing accountability and incorporating core values starting from the beginning with the road design process.
But each move into a potentially successful sustainable practice has its own set of plusses and minuses, and finding a balance is a key part of developing a long-lasting sustainable practice. And to be of real value, a sustainable practice must last a long time, free from constant tweaking and changes.
“In any winter maintenance operation, building and sustaining working relationships with our stakeholders is an integral aspect in how we administer our responsibilities,” explains Warren Nicholishen, CRS, supervisor of roads operations and maintenance for Public Works — Transportation in the regional municipality of Peel, Ontario, Canada.
“We need to look at the core values of sustainability. We should be more proactive from the beginning to meet demands and the expectation that we are providing a safe, manageable transportation system,” says Nicholishen. “We need to begin with creating a sustainable road infrastructure to meet the existing and future needs of the population and local economies.”
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