NOTE: Innovation often happens as a progression over time. Little improvements that are passed organically are combined with other improvements gradually changing the way we do business. Often times we are unaware of everyone involved with the innovation. Since this article was originally posted, we’ve heard from several of our innovators in Iowa DOT garages including those in Denison, Ida Grove, Pacific Junction, and Boone who have fabricated other edge rut chutes designed to make the work of our maintenance crews easier and more efficient. We apologize for anyone who was unintentionally not recognized in the article and we're proud of all of our innovators who take on challenges and solve problems in the name of making lives better through transportation. Thanks to all of the dedicated employees for their creativity!
As you’re driving along you probably don’t think much about the edge of the road and the rock that transitions between the paved shoulder and the ditch. The rock is meant to help you safely transition back onto the pavement. However, sometimes that rock settles or is moved by weather or traffic causing a rut to develop along the pavement. When this happens that rut may catch your tire and pull your vehicle in an unexpected way, potentially causing a safety issue.
“We’re seeing more and more paved shoulders, which is a good safety improvement for motorists,” said Rockwell City Garage Operations Assistant Bryce Edwards. “But it means the rock buffer area has gotten much more narrow and more difficult for our large equipment to distribute new rock where it is needed to fill edge ruts. Filling those ruts has put our operators in a risky situation where the trucks often have to run at a pretty good angle down into the ditch, risking a rollover. ”
To solve the issue, Edwards and Rockwell City Highway Technician Mike Sittig began designing an updated edge rut chute to more easily allow the operator to control rock placement, especially on narrow shoulders.
Edwards explained, “The current edge rut chutes most shops use don’t have any way for the operator to control them from inside the cab. You also have to remove the truck bumper and drill holes in the box to install them. Mike, who is a great metal fabricator, and I came up with an idea for an off-set edge rut chute that would attach to the current bumper and allow the operator to use the truck’s hydraulic system to control the chute. It also allows for a camera so the operator can see the whole process from inside the cab.”
The pair constructed two new edge rut chute systems, one for each make of truck used in the shop. All of the operators in Rockwell City and its circle garages in Sac City, Carroll, and Pocahontas, were trained to use the innovation. Edwards said, “It’s very easy to operate and we’ve gotten a lot of good feedback. Supervisors in other shops are asking to borrow the chutes to test them out in their areas.”
VIDEO of chute in action –
While the new edge rut chute might seem like a small innovation, it is a strong example of one of the DOT’s 5-Year Priority Goal of growing innovation. Not only is it innovative, but the result could have a big impact on safety. Iowa DOT Chief Engineer Mitch Dillavou recently visited the Rockwell City shop and saw the new edge rut chute. He said, “The edge rut chute is just one example of how our people recognized a problem and found a solution that could benefit all of us.
Director Scott Marler, who was on the trip with Dillavou said, “As we’ve toured the state this summer visiting a number of locations, I’ve been so impressed with the ingenuity and creativity of our folks to recognize and solve these safety concerns. Our employees are truly living out our core value of ‘Safety First.”
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