Content and photo by District 10 H.B. Elkins
Morgan’s Blake Elam wins individual title as event resumes after two-year COVID hiatus
JACKSON, Ky. – After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19 concerns, the Department of Highways District 10’s annual Equipment Operators Safety Training Conference and Roadeo equipment operating contest resumed this week.
The two-year layoff from competition didn’t dull the competitive skills of the crew from the Morgan County state highway maintenance garage. The West Liberty-based team won its fourth straight overall crew championship in the resumption of the event last held in 2019.
Morgan County’s Blake Elam was the overall individual championship, compiling the best total score from all six events that make up the competition.
The annual Roadeo brings equipment operators from the district’s maintenance garages together for a day of friendly competition and fellowship. The event allows equipment operators from the district’s crews to show their skills in operating the equipment they use to maintain state highways in the district. The obstacle courses simulate actual situations equipment operators may encounter in the performance of their duties. The event is officially known as the Equipment Operators Safety Training Conference, and participants received training in fire safety, conducted by KYTC staffers who also serve on their local fire departments, as part of the day’s schedule. Seat belt use was also emphasized as a point of safety for crew members in the wake of a fatality in a state work truck in western Kentucky earlier this year, in which the driver was not wearing a seat belt.
Two new events were added to the competition this year, lowboy tractor-trailer and tandem-axle snowplow, joining the single-axle snowplow, backhoe, grader, and tractor competitions that have been held in past years. This meant that the event expanded from a single-day to a two-day event, which was held on Wednesday, June 25, and Friday, June 27, at the Beattyville district equipment garage and the Lee County Maintenance garage facility.
Individual event winners were:
- Backhoe: Landon Lawson, Morgan County first place; Jordan Patrick, Morgan County, second place.
- Snowplow obstacle course (single-axle truck): Stan Howard, Magoffin County, first place; Steve Howard, Magoffin County, second place.
- Snowplow obstacle course (double-axle tandem truck): Josh Howard, Magoffin County, first place; Scotty Oney, Morgan County, second place.
- Tractor with mower: Matt Kirby, Estill County, first place; Jordan Patrick, Morgan County, second place.
- Grader: Tanner Stephens, Magoffin County, first place; Freddie Hylton, Morgan County, second place.
- Lowboy tractor-trailer: Lewis Barrett, District 10 Beattyville equipment garage, first place; Blake Elam, Morgan County, second place.
The individual contest winners and runners-up will advance to a statewide competition against participants from the other 11 highway districts across Kentucky, to be held at the Kentucky Horse Park June 21-22. State winners will be eligible to participate in the annual Southeastern Regional Equipment Operators Safety Training Conference competition, to be held in Baton Rouge, La., in September.
The second day of the competition had originally been scheduled for Thursday, May 26, but the event was pushed back to the following day because of the forecast of thunderstorms. A little drizzle persisted Friday morning, but inclement weather missed the event site and did not affect the competition.
“After not being able to hold the Roadeo for two years due to COVID, it was great to be able to get our crews together and resume this event, which is always enjoyable,” said Corbett Caudill, chief district engineer. “Our county maintenance crew members have to work in all sorts of weather conditions and are subject to being called out at any time of the day or night. In addition to the normal snow and ice removal duties our crews face each winter, we’ve responded to a large number of mudslides, rockfalls, breaks in pavement, and flooded roads the past couple of years. Our personnel do an excellent job maintaining our state highways and reacting to emergency situations caused by the weather or other issues. Operating the equipment necessary to maintain our highways year-round, and to keep them clear of snow and ice in the winter, takes a lot of skill and knowledge. The Roadeo gives our employees a chance to show off their abilities. It also gives our employees from our county garages, who don’t get to have much interaction with other crews on a regular basis, a chance to know that they are all part of one team and that we appreciate all of them for their effort and hard work.”
District 10 encompasses the counties of Breathitt, Estill, Lee, Magoffin, Menifee, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Powell and Wolfe in east-central and southeastern Kentucky.