Plowers' road to victory


Imagine sitting in a large truck with a wide snowplow attached to the front, trying to clear the road of accumulating white flakes while watching for mailboxes, cars, children playing - and doing it at all hours of the day and night.

This is what Carroll County road workers face during the winter months.

To show off their skills, the drivers participated in the 2005 Paul A. Croasmun Memorial Snow Truck Road-eo on Thursday at the Carroll Community College parking lot.

About 30 Carroll County employees navigated an obstacle course, weaving in and out of turns. Drivers earned points for the speed at which they got through the course, but points were deducted for knocking down cones and hitting curbs.

"It simulates plowing around parked cars," said Tim Petry, 39, a shop foreman for the county who won a trophy for his driving skills for the past two years.

Brad Tracey, 20, of Westminster said driving a truck with a snowplow causes a change in visibility and control.

"When you have a plow on, it's a different story," Tracey said. "You have to rely on your mirrors."

When all of the points were tallied, Ron Fritz, 46, of Westminster won first place in the local competition, with a score of 490 points out of a possible 570.

He said the competition "is a good learning tool" for workers trying to sharpen their driving skills for the winter. Because most visibility is lost with the addition of the snowplow, Fritz said that during the competition "you try to visualize where the cone is to angle the wheel to get the blade around it."

Tom Battaglia won second place with a score of 485; he was a minute faster than third-place winner Gerry Shue.

Shue said the event "almost would be better if the public could do it, to show how hard it is."

The top three finishers moved on to the regional competition later in the day, joined by drivers from Frederick and Howard counties.

In the regional competition, Battaglia won first place with a score of 520. Shue came in second with 485 points. Pete Miller of Howard County won third place with a score of 470.

In addition to the driving competition, the county sheriff's office conducted a demonstration with a police dog.

Sgt. Phillip S. Kasten, 32, showed the crowd how his patrol dog, Rony, could find a box of illegal drugs and how he obeyed commands.

Chuck Paulsen, the organizer of the road-eo and a safety and training coordinator for the county Office of Risk Management, which sponsored the competition, said he was happy with the turnout of about 150 people.

"This shows the safe driving skills these guys actually have," Paulsen said.

In addition to promoting safe driving, Paulsen said, the event is a good way to reward the county workers for their dedication and talent.

"These guys work in the worst areas, in the worst elements, and it shows their excellent driving skills, and it's a chance to earn a reward for their skills," he said.

Paulsen hopes the community will realize "how well these guys drive when they see clear roads ... and they can get to their destination safely."

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