Summer community events give adults and kids alike the chance to climb aboard an Illinois Tollway snowplow or HELP truck
The first thing most people notice about Illinois Tollway snowplows is how big they are, says Roadway Maintenance Manager Joe Dragovich.
At 10 feet high, 12 feet wide and up to 25 feet long, the 27-ton snowplows impress children and adults alike.
The second thing people notice is the horn. “They find the horn pretty quickly,” Dragovich said.
Those snowplow horns will be getting a workout now that summer has arrived and communities throughout Northern Illinois are inviting the Illinois Tollway to be part of their local festivals and events.
The Illinois Tollway Roadway Maintenance division recently participated in the Midlothian Park District 70th Anniversary Bash. The Tollway has previously participated in the annual festival, which includes a touch-a-truck exhibit of police, fire and other emergency vehicles, as well as public works trucks. The Tollway brought a snowplow and a Highway Emergency Lane Patrol (H.E.L.P.) truck for a steady stream of kids to climb aboard.
Equipment Operator Laborers Bob Pienkowski and Courtney Dockery showed kids how to lift and move the snowplow blade, flip on the lights and say hi to their mom and dad over the H.E.L.P. truck public-address system. They also talked to guests about the roadway assistance services H.E.L.P. truck operators provide to stranded customers, such as changing tires, adding coolant and dispensing fuel.
Since the late 1990s, Roadway Maintenance has participated in up to 40 touch-a-truck exhibits a year. These exhibits are usually part of bigger family friendly events hosted by local communities, park districts, state legislators, social service agencies and churches and include fire trucks, police cruisers, construction equipment and other emergency vehicles.
On any given weekend over the summer, there may be two to four Illinois Tollway vehicles at local touch-a-truck exhibits, typically assigned by which of the 12 maintenance facilities are closest to the event. The Tollway vehicles are always accompanied by equipment operator laborers from the Roadway Maintenance division to serve as guides and experts to share their firsthand technical know-how about the vehicle and working on the road.
The Tollway typically brings one of its 196 snowplows or 13 H.E.L.P. trucks and allow anyone interested to hop inside and see how everything works. Depending on the availability of its trucks and space limitations on site, the Tollway might also bring out one of its channel trucks, the big yellow maintenance vehicles often used to haul barricades or signs or assist with Hot Weather Patrols or Zero Weather Road Patrols.
The trucks are accompanied by their operators, who point out different parts of the trucks and explain what they do. It also gives operators a chance to educate the public on safety efforts including the Move Over Law, Drop It and Drive and *999 for roadside assistance.
“Being a part of local events gives us an opportunity to have face-to-face conversations with people in our communities about the different services and programs we provide to keep travel safe on our roadways,” said Dragovich. “So, the next time they see a snowplow or H.E.L.P. truck driving on the Tollway, they know exactly what they’re looking at.”