Thursday, February 2, 2012

Behind the scenes of equipment repair during a snowstorm

Kelly Heathman from our Transportation Equipment Fund office sent us this on the morning of January 18 and although it's a couple of weeks old, we thought we would share it with you to give you some behind the scenes detail about the people and the work that goes into maintaining and repairing those snowplows and trucks you see out on the roadways.

by guest blogger Kelly Heathman

I was watching the news Wednesday morning (January 18) as snow was falling all around my house.  The reporter was commenting on our efforts on how well we were keeping the roads clear.  It gave me a sense of pride and got me thinking about the unsung heroes at the Transportation Equipment Fund (TEF).

Every truck that was plowing snow that morning has undergone a thorough check of all its components by TEF technicians.  These mechanical marvels are a menagerie of components just waiting to fail.  Just a simple hydraulic problem can cripple one of these beasts.  As technologically advanced as these trucks are, only so much can be done to safeguard them from the corrosive agents being spread on the roads.  They are exposed to a cruel world. They simply won’t operate without maintenance and fuel. 

What happens to these trucks when the unthinkable happens?  They go to one of the six shop locations in the NW Region manned by TEF technicians, and in some cases they are repaired on the site of the breakdown.  With TEF mechanics on a snow event contingency schedule, all shops are open 24 hours to respond to any problems.  There are also 25 WSDOT fuel sites that need constant monitoring and maintenance during inclement weather.

What are the most common components that fail?  As mentioned, hydraulic problems are a common occurrence.  Since the plow and dump body functions are operated by hydraulics, one small problem can disable the truck.  When this happens, a technician usually has to repair the truck on the side of the road.  He must determine the problem and manufacture a new hose from the tools in his service truck.  This has to be done safely and in the most adverse weather conditions.

TEF takes theses trucks maintenance very seriously.  They are meticulously cared for from the minute they arrive to the Corson shop from the dealership.  We install all the controllers, mount the plows, install the lighting, safeguard the components from the elements and do all the custom fabrication.  They are on a strict preventative maintenance schedule of fluid and filter replacement, tires, brake system and hydraulic maintenance. 

So when you see that yellow dump truck traveling down the highway on the 6:00 news, please remember the blood, sweat and tears that went into the fabrication and maintenance of it.  That’s what I see.