The snow plow drivers with the city of Highland’s Street & Alley Department are ready for the worst Old Man Winter has to throw at them — and they’ve got the hardware to prove it.
Teams from Highland collected first and third places recently in the 2017 American Public Works Association Illinois Chapter Snow Roadeo, held recently at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
The Snow Roadeo is an annual event where snow removal workers from all over Illinois come to show their skills and knowledge of the profession.
This is the 13th year a team from Highland has competed in the event. Out of those 13 years, Highland has taken home the trophy six times.
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This year, Jim Bugger and partner Bob Daiber took home top honors for Highland. It was the fourth time the pair won it all. Bill Aegerter and Lonie Poettker placed third in the overall competition.
“I think everyone dreams of driving a snow plow truck one time or another when they seem them out on the road,” Bugger said. “But they are not as easy to drive as people think.”
Teams start the challenge with an 100 question written test over their knowledge of commercial driver’s license requirements and snow removal techniques. Then, the teams are put through the “Circle of Safety” where contestants are given four minutes to find out everything that is wrong with a truck. To add to the challenge, this year, there were two trucks with about 20 problems that needed to be figured out. But it’s the main event, the obstacle course, that is the specialty of the Highland drivers.
“You never know what is going to happen on the course,” Bugger said.
Bugger said that the 400-foot-long course is as close as you can get to real-life plowing without the snow.
“Most of the course pretty well dictates who wins,” Bugger said.
The sequence starts out with a parked car simulation, where barrels are placed at intervals to mimic what it is like plowing in between parallel parked cars.
“People don’t realize how close the plow is actually getting to that mail box or somebody’s car,” said Poettker. “You are getting as close as you can without hitting them.”
The driver then shoots through a left-hand curve and into the “serpentine,” a series of four barrels the drivers weave the plow through. And then they do it again, backwards.
Following the serpentine, the drivers have 30 seconds to switch places. The new driver then navigates through a simulated offset alley to the next precision task. Two narrow lines of tennis balls are set up, and the contestants have to fit one row of the plow’s wheels through the space without touching the balls.
“The hardest part, I would say, is them tennis balls. But you know, the serpentine is no bowl of cherries either,” Aegerter said.
After the tennis balls test, the drivers are home free. They shoot around another inside curve to the finish line. They have to drop their plow within six inches of accuracy on the line while signaling their finish with the blow of the horn.
In addition to taking first place overall, Bugger and Daiber were also first place in the obstacle course. Aegerter and Poettker came in second on the course competition.
Bugger and Daiber said their continued success in the competition is testament to their 30 years of experience with the Street & Alley Department, and their Snow Roadeo titles reflect the amount of work the department puts in to keeping the streets safe, clear and clean.
“I think the city of Highland does a good job of keeping the streets clean, and we have been fortunate enough to experience, you know, a little bit of fun that trains us for the winter time,” Bugger said.
Highland Snow Roadeo titles
▪ 2003 was the first year Highland has entered the event. Bob Daiber and Jim Bugger took home the gold.
▪ Bugger and Daiber won again at the 2006 Roadeo.
▪ In 2007, a new Highland team made up from Lonie Poettker and Tyler Kunz took first place.
▪ Bugger and Daiber won back their first-place name at the following Roadeo in 2009. There was no Roadeo in 2008.
▪ 2014 was the last Highland victory before this year, with Bill Aegerter and Barkley Schlaefer taking first for Highland.