Drivers, start your engines!

Annual “roadeo” tests DOT heavy equipment operators’ skills

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Photo gallery

ROCKINGHAM — Had it been a cat, it would have purred; a horse, it would have whinnied in delight.

But it was a truck. It didn’t make a sound.

Steve Stutts rubbed his hand down one side of the single-axle dump truck, around the rump and up the other side.

Stutts, a mechanic in the Richmond County garage for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, was keenly focused on what might be wrong with the truck. And there was something wrong — 10 things, to be exact, set up to be wrong as part of the annual “Roadeo” on Monday at Rockingham Dragway.

The event is designed to test the safety awareness and skill level of department employees who operate heavy equipment. Each of NCDOT’s 14 highway divisions compete in a division-level competition. Winners go on to compete in the statewide roadeo held July 21 in Raleigh at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds and, if they win, to a regional competition later this year in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Steve Stutts, a mechanic with the Richmond County garage of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, performs a pre-trip inspection.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Steve Stutts, a mechanic with the Richmond County garage of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, performs a pre-trip inspection.

Along with work and a focus on safety, it’s also a lot of fun. And it’s not easy.

On Monday, drivers had to work their way through six stations each worth a maximum of 50 points. Among the nearly four dozen competitors in Division 8, which includes Richmond and the counties of Chatham, Lee, Moore, Hoke, Montgomery, Randolph and Scotland, Stutts was out of place in this competition. You see, he’s not a driver at all.

As a mechanic with 35 years’ experience with DOT equipment, he has the experience necessary to compete with the division’s best. But he’s not in it for the glory.

“I just enjoy it,” said Stutts, a roadeo veteran.

Some might figure Steve Moore, meanwhile, had a disadvantage going into the annual competition. But the 45-year-old Randolph County DOT truck driver uses that to his advantage. With an ever-present smile, Moore — with one arm crippled since birth due to a series of strokes as a newborn — tackles whatever challenge is in front of him.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

His handicap, well, isn’t.

“I still do everything everyone with two good arms does,” Moore said.

The first station was a routine pre-inspection, albeit one with 10 faults — a broken seatbelt, perhaps, or a flat tire — deliberately set. One at a time, was up to each driver to find as many faults as possible with three minutes.

Another station included parallel parking, another backing into a dock-like area — points were deducted for multiple stops within the parking area, and the farther away the back of the truck to the simulated dock, the fewer points were awarded. The top scores were within 6 inches; the first few drivers were closer to double that.

Drivers also had a stop-line exercise and a straight-line exercise.

In another area, the situation was this: a sandbox, five golf balls and five PVC pipes. There,  14 backhoe operators faced a running clock to use the backhoe, with a spoon-like accessory on the end of the bucket, to move each of the five golf balls into different-sized tubes. Points were docked each time the spoon touched a tube.

The three-day competition resumes from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday and Thursday.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Tony Brown measures the distance from the tailgate to the simulated dock.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Tony Brown measures the distance from the tailgate to the simulated dock.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Jimmy L. Maness, road maintenance supervisor with the N.C. Department of Transportation, reports the score of another driver in the alley dock station on Tuesday at Rockingham Dragway.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Jimmy L. Maness, road maintenance supervisor with the N.C. Department of Transportation, reports the score of another driver in the alley dock station on Tuesday at Rockingham Dragway.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Todd Logan, of Randolph County, works the backhoe to try and get a golf ball within a PVC tube.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Todd Logan, of Randolph County, works the backhoe to try and get a golf ball within a PVC tube.

 

Filed in: Featured News, Hoffman, Latest Headlines, News, Outdoors, Public safety, Rockingham

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