A small army of public works personnel from around the state and beyond converged upon Camp Ripley near Little Falls on May 19 for the fifth annual Minnesota Roadway Maintenance Training and Demo Day. More than 130 attendees received local road maintenance updates and training refreshers through presentations by expert instructors from Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota.

Attendees broke into smaller units for short demonstration sessions outside throughout the second half of the daylong event.

During the general session, Brian Barott and Marv Hayes, training specialists with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, explained new commercial drivers license restrictions for government drivers and shared new ways to properly inspect securement devices and secure cargo.

Barott also warned against the use of cell phones and texting while driving. “We all are used to: the phone rings and we pick it up. You have to fight that for all it’s worth when you’re in a commercial motor vehicle. Don’t do it,” Barott said. “You have to understand that the human condition issue is distraction, and that’s how we get in trouble.”

Minnesota LTAP instructor John Okeson teamed with South Dakota LTAP program manager Greg Vavra to present motor grader blading techniques and equipment needed for maintaining a good gravel road. They offered real-world examples while focusing on new technologies, correct materials, and safety.

Another Minnesota LTAP Instructor, Ann Johnson, partnered with retired Crow Wing county engineer Duane Blanck to discuss well-designed, well-built, and well-maintained ditches and culverts. According to Johnson and Blanck, both ditches and culverts serve an important function in drainage systems and are essential for the proper design, installation, and maintenance of good roads and roadsides.

To conclude the general session, Iowa LTAP director Keith Knapp and Renae Kuehl, with SRF, explained how local agency maintenance personnel are in the best position to be the “eyes and ears” of the road when it comes to identifying safety issues. Their presentation focused on maintenance safety solutions such as shoulder drop-offs, right-of-way obstructions, striping and signing, guardrails, mowing, sweeping, patching, drainage, and winter maintenance. 

Midway through the morning session, the Roads Scholar program, now in its 11th year, awarded certificates to 17 maintenance workers who completed training requirements during 2015. About 2,000 students from across the state are enrolled in the program.