Road crews battle fatigue as much as snow, ice - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Road crews battle fatigue as much as snow, ice

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Staying ahead of the storm – or just keeping up – has meant 12 to 16 hour workdays. Staying ahead of the storm – or just keeping up – has meant 12 to 16 hour workdays.
Trent Haines Trent Haines
Joe Barnett Joe Barnett

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Kentuckiana road crews have battled a dozen significant weather events since winter began and they are only halfway through the season.  That makes fatigue a factor, along with the ice and snow.

When your winter job means plowing and/or salting roads, you take your good fortune where you find it.

"Thank goodness we didn't have back to back snows," said Joe Barnett, director of the Western District for Louisville-Jefferson County Public Works.

Staying ahead of the storm – or just keeping up – has meant 12 to 16 hour workdays.

"When you have to concentrate for so long and so hard like that-yeah, it fatigues on you," crew chief Trent Haines said Monday. "One, you're trying to watch your vehicle. Secondly, you're trying not to fall off the road."

He's been in Public Works for seven years. Barnett for 27 years. And the math never changes.

"We've got 13 tons on the back of a tandem (dual axle)," Barnett explained. "We're pushing a plow-a big truck. You can't stop that on a dime."

"They (other drivers) don't always respect you," Haines said. "They'll dart out in front of you."

Public Works tries to ease the stress by pacing the work-week between storms. Haines' 40-hour week comes in four 10-hour days, with three-day weekends.

"It helps manage the overtime," Barnett said. "And when we shift to twelve (hours) on, twelve off—you get full coverage."

"You grab sleep ahead of time, 7 or 8 o'clock bedtimes, when you know you have to be on the road at 4 in the morning," Haines said.

Tuesday's forecast combination of snow, rain and ice offers few opportunities for down time.

"We've had 12 events so far this Winter," Barnett said. "That's more than all of last year."

"You'll take a break every two or three hours," Haines said. But no coffee break for him. "It's all about eating properly," Haines said.

"We always let ‘em get out and stretch -- get something to eat when they need to," Barnett said.

But perhaps the best stress-relief is what the rest of us can offer; distance.

"Don't pull in front of us," Barnett said.

"Give us about four car-lengths," Haines told us.

"We'd like to get around you," Barnett said. "That's what we'd like to do."

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