Winter is coming; plow drivers are training

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PORTLAND — It was hot, the last Thursday in August. As Wayside Road area residents walked their dogs, they couldn’t believe what they saw.

A Portland Public Works plow truck came rumbling by, full blades out, the familiar thundering sound a plow truck makes when snow is pushed during a winter storm.

But there was only green grass and pavement, and no snowbanks.

“I wanted to take a picture so when I told people what I saw they wouldn’t think I was drinking,” one resident mused. On the back of the truck was a sign with an  explanation: “training.”

Lewiston Public Works operators do take plows out before snow falls, but not until around Halloween, Director Dave Jones said. “We have dry runs around October where they go out and hook up the trucks and plow gear.” Those dry runs ensure that everything is working. It gets drivers familiar with routes.

Usually Portland does the same, but this year Portland has a high turnover of drivers, Portland Public Works Director Christopher Branch said Tuesday.

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Typically four or five staffers leave. This year Branch had to replace 14 or 15 workers.

A higher number of new operators means earlier training is needed. “All these new people need to go through training. Normally we do that in October or November. It’s unusual for us to be out this early,” Branch said.

Driving a plow truck when there’s no snow helps operators “get a sense of the wing and the plow. It may teach them how to do turns and round corners,” Branch said. Operators need a good sense of awareness of the big trucks before clearing snow during winter storms, he added.

Snowplow training involves one new hire driving with an experienced operator, Branch said.

Lewiston Public Works plow trucks do “dry runs” around Halloween, but this Portland Public Works driver practiced using a plow truck on a residential street Thursday, fetching puzzled looks from residents. The driver was training. (Submitted photo) 
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