COVINGTON, Ky. -Troy McCain spun the wheel of his Kenworth T350 dump truck and almost took out the orange cones guarding the narrow lane he was maneuvering through.
“I thought I lost it for a minute,” he said, laughing as the uneven pavement and sharp turns caused him to bounce up and down inside the truck’s cab.
For McCain, a light equipment operator in the City of Covington’s Public Works Department, the pressure was on.
He was being watched not only by his colleagues but a panel of judges eager to deduct points for any cone McCain might brush or for any other alleged mistake.
Public Works calls the event “Snow-deo,” and it represents the fun part of a day spent preparing for the coming winter weather. Or, as Public Works Department Director Rick Davis said, “getting our brains accustomed to snow and ice again.”
Public Works is responsible for keeping 270 lane miles of roads and streets in Covington clear all winter long, no matter what drops from gray skies.
Thursday included a safety session, a refresher course on plows and other winter-related equipment, and Snow-deo, the rodeo-style event in which drivers compete to see who’s the best.
Skills required? Nerves of platinum, a deft touch, and core strength - whatever it takes to maneuver a dump truck weighed down with a plow (and eventually salt) through a 15-minute obstacle course built to simulate a City street.
The course included tight turns, skinny lanes, and barricades, with backing up required, Davis said. Drivers were timed, points were deducted, bonuses were awarded, and judges watched every move.
But it’s fun, he said.
“The guys really like it, and it gets competitive,” he said.
TV cameras were also on hand.
About 30 employees competed in two categories - large dump truck (aka plow, aka salt truck) and small.
Winners will be announced and prizes awarded tomorrow once scores are accumulated.
It’s the third or fourth year for the event, and drivers look forward to it, Davis said. But the point of the day is never lost.
“It’s all fun and games there but there’s a serious side as well,” he said. “We never forget our mission - to help our residents get to where they need to go, and to help them get there alive and their vehicles undamaged.”
Covington’s salt dome is full of about 1,800 tons of salt right now, with a budget for 3,000 more tons.
Last year, Public Works drivers were called out 21 different times for winter-related road treatment and logged over 1,400 hours behind the wheels of 16 trucks.
“Hey, we’re ready,” Davis said.