Idaho Transportation

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ITD duo hold their own at national Roadeo

The champion and runner-up at ITD’s annual Roadeo competition advance to the annual Western Snow & Ice Conference and Roadeo in Colorado to match their skills with other drivers from throughout the nation.

Dale Fremont, a Transportation Technician from Ashton Maintenance in District 6, and George Shutes, a Transportation Technician Senior from Bonners Ferry in District 1, participated in the national competition Sept. 27-Oct. 1 at the Denver International Airport Holiday Inn. They finished first and second respectively in ITD competition last summer.

Following is a summary of their excursion, provided by Rex Hufford:

Monday was registration, testing, and vehicle/equipment inspections. If competing in all events, contestants had to take a written test on loaders, motor graders and single- and tandem-axle trucks. After testing, contestants conducted equipment inspections on the loader, motor grader, single- and tandem-axle trucks within a four-minute time limit on each truck. Their mission was to find four defects on each.

The competition began Tuesday under perfect weather conditions. It began with the motor grader event. For two guys who don't run motor graders, it was a great challenge.

I never saw two people laugh so hard as they did when they dismounted the machine and started talking about their experience. Dale Fremont said he has a total lifetime experience of about 18 hours running motor grader. Out of the 34 contestants, Dale placed 30th. He noticed that all the judges on the entire course, got out of their seats as he approached the events to score and save the course materials. Shortly after that, it was George Shute’s turn. George has not operated a motor grader the past two years. George placed 12th in the event and also brought the judges to their feet.

Both had very strong written and diagnostic scores for the motor grader competition. Both said they had a lot of fun and that they managed to finish without being “DQd” (disqualified for running mow board into a tire). They were allowed 7 1/2 minutes (each) to complete seven events. The course was set with an extremely high level of difficulty in hopes of challenging everyone.

It succeeded.

Next up was the single-axle truck competition that attracted 34 teams. Unaccustomed to team driving, a coin was flipped to see who drive the first part of the course. Dale started the competition and focused so intently on getting a high score that he forgot about the clock. Exceeding the five-minute threshold cost him an additional 100 points. All-in-all, they still placed 12th. With some new twists in this year’s truck course, both contestants admitted it was "challenging".

Wednesday the weather turned for the worst with rain, wind and cold temperatures. The day began with ITD’s strongest event, the loader. It drew a crowd of 62 registered contestants. George went first and placed ninth in the event. When it was Dale’s turn, the pounding rain made it difficult to see. The course is tight and difficult on a good day, and then you add a course time limit. Poor visibility translated into lost points – Dale placed 35th. Both contestants were excited they did this well, given the weather conditions.

The day finished with the tandem-axle truck competition, another team event that drew 51 pairs. Rain let up considerably by the time the event began, enabling contestants to see the course much better. Dale and George had an extremely good run and in good time, placing fifth. They had the best obstacle course score of the day.

Both said they had a wonderful time and were extremely pleased with their performances. They are already looking forward to next year and both would like to return for an encore performance.

Other activities included an airport tour. We looked at equipment, talked with a variety of people (operators, security, contract writers, managers,) and then they took us on the airport's new runway (opened last year), 16,000+ feet long by 200 feet wide. The taxiway and the runway are both this size. This runway is one of three in the United States that is capable of landing the space shuttle. They demonstrated a runway snow removal exercise called the “Condor Line” where 40+ pieces of equipment form a flying “V” and clear both the taxiway and the runway in 25 minutes or less. We were also offered rides in the equipment to experience high-speed plowing and brooming with a 26-foot wide plow and broom.

Wednesday, after the conference and roadeo events, Dale and I went to Estes Park. We managed to get there in time see the Elk herds and listen to an hour of elk bugling. We also stayed long enough to see our first snow as a storm moved in.

Among the states represented at the national event were: New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New Mexico, Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Oregon, California, South Dakota and the Ada County Highway Department.

Usually it’s California CalTrans that does extremely well at the competition. This year it was small Colorado municipalities that performed best.

Motor grader : 1. Town of Brenkenridge; 2. Summit County Road & Bridge; 3. Missoula County
Loader: 1. Town of Brenkenridge; 2. Missoula County; 3. Town of Brenkenridge
Single-axle trucks: 1. City & County of Denver; 2. Town of Brenkenridge; 3. City of Westminster, Colo.
Tandem-axle trucks: 1. City and county of Denver; 2. City of Omaha; 3. City of Westminster

Photos: Top left, George Shutes of Bonners Ferry; pictured at right is Dale Fremont, Ashton.