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Duane Smith, CTRE, (515) 294-8817
Michele Regenold, CTRE, (515) 296-0835
Skip Derra, News Service, (515) 294-4917


AMES, Iowa -- It won't be snowing in the parking lot of Hilton Coliseum at Iowa State University, but plows and teams of operators will be out in full force on Sept. 10.

They'll be taking part in a "roadeo" featuring hammer head turnarounds, plowing between cars and ball-in-chute maneuvers, that will test the driving skills of snow plow drivers and motor grader operators. The "roadeo" is part of the Iowa Maintenance Training Expo, Sept. 11-12, at the Iowa State Center.

The Expo is expected to attract about 800 attendees from the Iowa Department of Transportation and Iowa counties and cities. The Expo is the state's annual educational training session for those who take care of Iowa's more than 113,000 miles of roads. It presents the latest research, technologies and techniques for summer and winter road maintenance.

The Iowa Snow Plow Roadeo will include up to 40 teams of drivers and the Motor Grader Roadeo will have up to 40 individual drivers competing on two obstacle courses.

Overall, there are three segments to the roadeo -- a written exam, a vehicle defect identification exercise and the driving test. The category where drivers can score the most points is the driving test. The snow plow competition includes maneuvering the vehicle through 12 separate sections that replicate normal street and road obstacles. Motor graders have seven sections to traverse.

"The course really shows how well these drivers can safely move a large rig through demanding curves, nooks and crannies," said Duane Smith, associate director of outreach at the Center for Transportation Research, who organized the event. "It's amazing to see what they can do with their plows and graders."

For example, in snow plowing between parked cars, a driver must knock over 4 x 4 x 12 in. blocks without hitting traffic cones set 12 in. to the right of the blocks. Points are deducted for missing any of the blocks and hitting any of the "parked cars," represented by traffic cones.

There is a "ball-in-chute" task in the motor grader competition in which the operator must pick up a large ball with the toe of the mold-board and carry it a short distance. Then, using the heel on the opposite side of the motor grader, the operator has to place the ball in a chute. This represents picking up snow on the blade, carrying it along and then depositing it at a specific location.

Each obstacle competition is a timed event. Points are deducted for going over a prescribed time limit -- 15 minutes for the snow plow course and 6 minutes for the motor grader competition.

"Many of us don't think about how skilled these drivers really are, but when you see this competition you get a real appreciation for their abilities to move large rigs in and out of tight spaces," Smith added. "And they do it with the utmost safety and in the spirit of competition."


News directors:
Reporters are welcome to attend the "roadeo," which will include many visual elements. The driving tests begin at 9:45 a.m. and should last until about 2 p.m., depending on the number of teams competing. For more information, call Michele Regenold, (515) 296-0835, or Skip Derra, (515) 294-4917.

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Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
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