Father & son collaborate as D3 adopts D5 guardrail fix

“Father Knows Best.” It’s not only a truism and a sitcom from the ‘50s. It’s the starting point that brought an innovation from District 5 to District 3.

Jerry Richards has worked at ITD for decades, and is now the foreman for the Orchard maintenance shed in southwest Idaho. One of the tasks he quickly encountered was fixing broken guardrail along the highway.

Crews in the district had two options: contract the service out, or do it themselves using a backhoe to pull up and hammer in pylons. Jerry saw some safety concerns with the do-it-yourself approach – but he had an ace up his sleeve.

Jerry’s son, Anthony, happens to be the foreman of the Pocatello maintenance shed; and Tony had a truck that specializes in replacing guardrail. Working with Transportation Technician Ron Manchester, Jerry got the ball rolling to bring the truck west for a demonstration.

“It started out as a bit of a joke,” said Jerry. “But we sent Tony an email. He (Tony) put two and two together and called me up and said ‘Dad, what are you up to?’”

Jerry and Ron shared their idea with Tony and the three got to work making it a reality. Working out the logistics, the three were able to coordinate a real-world demonstration of the guardrail truck. Tony brought a crew from D5 to D3, where Jerry had assembled a group from around the district to observe and train on the truck.

You can see video of the truck in action.

It quickly gained approval from the crews.

“It’s compact, simple to learn, and a lot safer,” said Jerry.

The guardrail truck has an on-board hydraulic system that pulls out broken pylons and pounds new ones into place. This is operated by controls away from the action, making it a safer operation. It’s also much quicker.

“I figure it would have taken us 60 hours to do the stretch we tested,” said Jerry. “With the truck, we did it in 16.”

After experiencing the guardrail truck, D3 is looking into obtaining its own.

“A truck like this would allow us to replace more guardrail ourselves and improve safety while doing it,” said D3 Operations Manager Michael Garz. “We could realize some healthy savings and provide more career growth opportunities for our crews.”

The cross-district demonstration not only showcased an innovative tool. It was a chance to train and build relationships within the department.

“Tony ran my crew for the whole day,” said Jerry, who hadn’t worked alongside his son in more than a decade. “He learned stuff from my crew and he was able to show them something new.”

This event has prompted future collaborations, according to Jerry. He’s already drawing up plans to bring a vacuum truck from D3 east for cross training.

Published 05-11-18