Crews burn the midnight oil to keep the plows plowing

Drivers can take comfort when they know WSDOT plows are hitting the road at the first sign of snow. The plow drivers can take comfort as well, because they know they have great mechanics backing them up and making sure their equipment is safe and ready for a long day or night of work.

In Mount Vernon, the Area 2 equipment maintenance crew is down to two techs. Normally there would be three techs to take care of the multitude of trucks and equipment necessary to keep over 324 miles of highway safe (802 lane miles). But one mechanic has been out after an injury, leaving Tim McCartney and Andy McKinney to pull some extra duty to keep the trucks on the road.

Tim, a Tech 4, has been with WSDOT for 23 years. His teammate Andy, is a Tech 3, and has been with WSDOT for five years.

Mechanics Tim McCartney (left) and Andy McKinney work on a hydraulic pump used to position a plow blade.

All week, Area 2 plow crews were humming like a well oiled machine. During our first blast of winter, they had 16 trucks sanding, deicing and plowing 24/7 from Whidbey Island to Marblemount, and everywhere in between.

That meant the equipment maintenance crew was burning the midnight oil too. Even though snow removal equipment is built tough, winter can wreak havoc on not just the trucks, but the pumps, motors and electrical equipment that all have to work together in extreme weather conditions. Along with regular maintenance and adjustments, they had several breakdowns last weekend too. That meant the two of them pulled extra-long shifts to keep the trucks rolling.

“Our crew is committed to their work, especially when the going gets tough like it did last weekend,” said Area 2 Supervisor Clint Terwilliger. “But without the excellence and commitment of my vehicle maintenance guys, the rest of our crews would be grounded. We are lucky to have staff that are willing put the safety of their communities first when the job just has to get done.”