Jack’s Journal: Grand Traverse County Road Commission Mechanics

When the weather hits the roads, counties across the north throw a lot of muscle into the fight! 

We are all familiar with the road plow, but who keeps these trucks on the road?  In Grand Traverse County there are five mechanics working two shifts.

“They are working right alongside the operators. If the operators are running 12 hours a day so are the mechanics, if not more,” says Tim Trudell, Grand Traverse Co. Road Commission.

These guys see it all, from minor to major repair. During a big storm, Grand Traverse has 31 trucks on the road, with a half dozen in the wings as back up.

The mechanics keep them on the roads. Paul Haywood has been wrenching for 30-plus years and he enjoys the challenge of keeping the fleet rolling.

“Answer the phones or the radio and diagnose what is wrong with the truck over the radio. Does he need to come in? Can they get by?  Whether we gotta go get them. I’ve seen just about all of it,” says Paul.

During a storm these trucks come in caked in ice and salt, and these guys can get drenched with the melt or deal with the effects of the salt on their skin. If there is time, they do wash the truck to de-ice it, but if not, they do what they have to.

 “We will go open the doors up and turn the heat off, make that room cold, put them up and they can change the cutting edge and everything stays frozen,” explains Tim.

Improvise! We can’t forget the mixing of the road solutions. That is a constant process and the support crew keeps a supply mixed and ready to load. There is no time to waste.

It is about safety done efficiently, and these mechanics take pride in keeping the fleet running. You can imagine some of the repairs, but ones I thought weren’t obvious: lug nuts have to be tightened daily when running front plows, and windshield wipers in some cases daily.

“When operators are running plows on the front of the trucks. When we get the heavy blows, pushing back banks, a lot of stuff hits the windshield. Anything that’s in that snow gets thrown around, hits the windshield, sand, dirt, garbage, pop cans, whatever, it hits the windshield and destroys the wiper blades,” explains Tim.

The muscle behind the muscle.

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