Transportation Matters in Iowa | Blog

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Getting our new team members safely on the road


IMG_6452The first day on a job can be exciting and a bit intimidating, especially if that job includes working on a highway with traffic whizzing by you at 60 mph or greater. To make sure we are living our core value of “safety first” and preparing our new field staff to be as safe and successful as possible on the road, we’ve recently implemented a more formalized training system to assure new team members have the skills they need to safely come back home to their loved ones after every shift.

We’ve always trained our staff, especially in the area of safety, but not always in a formalized, systematic way. With more than 900 team members in 100+ locations statewide, our field forces know their specific roads and what needs to be done. But as we go about our everyday tasks, we’re always innovating and learning new tips and tricks to more safely and efficiently get the job done. Naturally, we share those things with our immediate team, but these processes and ideas don’t always radiate out to other Iowa DOT locations.

District safety GOAsTo remedy this situation, a group of specifically designated garage operations assistants (GOA) in each of our six districts and Mitch Wood from the Maintenance Bureau took on the task of formalizing training for both new and existing field staff. Over the past year, Wood and the GOAs have been working through all Iowa DOT field maintenance training resources, making updates when needed, and formalizing the training process.

Once this group had the curriculum developed, they took the materials out to each district and presented it to supervisors, garage operations assistants, and highway technician seniors to get feedback.

Wood said, “Those face-to-face meetings were very well received. We were able to have open discussions about training needs and how this new process will work. By talking directly to the people who will be providing the training and documenting the process, we were able to help them understand the benefit to our teams.”

The documentation process, which is being integrated into DOTU, will help bring decades of experience we have with our current employees into the way we train our field forces. Wood said, “The training we have always provided for our new staff was done on a garage level and wasn’t always documented or coordinated with others across the sate. We didn’t have a paper trail to check on the progress of training. That documentation is one of the goals of our new process.”

Intro list (1)The training for new employees will be presented in segments. For the “Introduction to Maintenance Activities,” a new maintenance employee will go through each of the five elements of the training, no matter what background or experience that person has with the five elements. Those five elements include: need to know items on their first day, dump truck operation, loader operation, trailer and load securement, and traffic control. Wood said, “The total package takes two to three days, but since it is broken up into modules, the new person doesn’t have to absorb it all at once. To ensure the employee’s safety, they won’t work on the road alone until all modules are completed.”

Beyond these basic elements, employees will also receive winter-specific training in a simulator prior to getting behind the wheel of a snowplow. Wood added, “Because we’re adding more tow plows to our fleet, there is now a simulator training for those, too.”

In addition to the hands-on training for our road warriors, documenting a lot of what we do happens behind the keyboard of a computer. For those team members who perform these tasks such as enter information for timesheets into Workday and truck and material data into our data entry system, RMS, there are also new training videos available.

Craig Bargfrede from the Maintenance Bureau said, “The Workday training has been easy to access anytime, but in the past we have  only presented one training on RMS in the fall. If we hired new employees during the year, there wasn’t a documented RMS training session to help them get up to speed. These new videos will serve to train our new folks whenever they come on board.”

Bargfrede explained why correctly inputting data into our systems is critical, “One of the things we stress in the training is the ‘why’ behind the documentation. For example, the data in RMSserves as a backbone for decisions that are made down the line and also feeds into other processes like federal reimbursements for emergency projects. Having our folks understand the ‘why’ behind the task gives them the information they need to understand what inputting that data accurately produces.”

For more information about the training or learning more about the processes behind enhancing the training program, contact Mitch Wood at

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Iowa highway in the evening