PLAINFIELD — Snow plows in early October? They were out in full force Thursday morning as the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy hosted the 2012 edition of the Indiana Department of Transportation Roadeo.
The annual event is the culmination of subdistrict and district competitions that put plow truck drivers through a battery of skill tests in a tournament style format that ends with one winner.
It may be a tournament, but Harry Maginity says that the individual events in the tournament directly relate to the skills needed on the roads each winter for these drivers.
“It’s fun, and everything they’re doing out there relates to the different types of maneuvers they might have to make on a highway, including manipulating it this was or that way to get around objects alongside of the road,” Maginity said.
The championship starts with each driver being given a score of 2,850. The driver with the fewest errors and highest point total at the end of the day wins.
Events included manipulating a forward and backward serpentine road course, an alley dock challenge, diminishing-clearance cone course, and even a competition aimed at what drivers might see in a residential area, the mailbox curve competition.
Also, drivers had to wind their plows through a series of parked police cars, leaving only inches of leeway on each side.
One of the more popular events was a basketball competition where drivers had to take the shovel of a snow removal truck and attempt to shoot a basketball into a goal.
“A lot of it is dexterity, but it’s also about manipulating the way around obstacles and corners,” Maginity said. “Because (the drivers) take extra interest in this, they rehearse for it and I think it brings into the fold that you’ve got to be good at certain skills. It boosts their skill level and awareness to get ready for this (winter).”
There are 928 snow routes across Indiana each winter. The winner and second-place winner from the five subdistricts in Indianapolis, Greenfield, Tipton, Albany, and Cambridge City moved onto district competition, and then came here for the final challenge.
“All of those contract drivers from the subdistricts are in competition and they’re all encouraged to compete at the subdistrict level,” Maginity said. “They have to qualify, but this event has to do with driver safety as well as skill.”
Points were deducted for each cone or barrel touched by the trucks with the plow blade. There were six district tournaments after subdistrict ones where two drivers were chosen per district. They, along with the defending state champion make up the field each year.