County readies plows for first snow

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Workshop trains drivers, inspects vehicles, targets safety

For most folks, blowing down Broncos Parkway in a snowplow, in August, with the wind in your hair may seem rather odd.

But for veteran snowplow driver Jim Maes, it’s part of his job.

And his job, along with that of the Arapahoe County Road and Bridge Division, is to be ready to move mountains of white stuff before the first flake hits the ground.

More than 50 division employees, including Maes, took part in an annual daylong training program designed to blow the cobwebs off the county’s 19 snowplows, four loaders and seven road graders.

“Anyone who’s lived in Colorado knows it can snow as early as September,” said Allen Peterson, division manager. “So we want to get started while there’s time to make repairs, as well as order materials and parts.”

Drivers and maintenance personnel got a dusting off, too.

Along with an extensive safety course, drivers got a chance to drive their respective routes in good weather, which Petersen says helps build confidence.

Ensuring an adequate supply of replacement parts and de-icing material is also on the list, said Peterson.

Parts that are hard to get or wear out more often are ordered in advance.

“Before each shift, the snowplow operator completes a checklist that certifies the condition of the plow before it leaves the yard,” said Maes.

A small hand-held device and special electronic pucks located on the vehicle’s frame, inside the cab, and even on the engine, force the driver to visually inspect the plow, tire pressure, mileage, the sander, fluid levels, safety lighting and more.

“I try to plow these roads like I would plow them for my family,” said Maes, who plows the remote rural areas of Deer Trail. “I want my family to be safe out there, so that’s what I keep on my mind.”

BREAKOUT BOX

Respect the plow

During winter storms, Arapahoe County snowplows work around the clock to keep roads passable.

• Don’t crowd these large vehicles. Give snowplow operators room to do their job.

• Don’t tailgate snowplows or crowd them on either side.

• Plow drivers can’t see directly behind the trucks. Staying a safe distance behind a snowplow prevent possible injury. Plows weigh upwards of 60,000 pounds and may take up to 10 times longer to stop than regular passenger vehicles.

• Watch for plows on highways and on ramps. Yield to them.

• Never drive through a snow cloud or whiteout conditions.

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