RALEIGH (WTVD) --State transportation workers from around North Carolina are putting their skills to the test Tuesday at the North Carolina Department of Transportation rodeo on the NC State Fairgrounds.
Winners from regional competitions in the NCDOT's fourteen regions are competing against each other for a chance to represent the state in a southern regional competition in Georgia.
NCDOT workers are challenged to do things like back up a dump truck in a tight spot, get as close as possible to a barrier without hitting it, pick up golf balls with a backhoe, and knock tennis balls off pedestals of different heights with a motor grader.
"The event is designed to strengthen their skills and things that they do every day," said NCDOT safety engineer, Richard Thompson.
"Some of the skills that we challenge them on are backing, pulling up to fixed objects, locating defects within the equipment, just different things like that - maneuvering in tight confined, spaces, so all these things are done within sort of a friendly competition atmosphere, and beside from being a challenging event, it's also fun."
Thompson said the idea is to promote safety and skilled maneuvering of heavy equipment.
"It's very important because just take the backhoe for instance, now you walk up and watch the backhoe event - they're putting golf balls in a cylinder - that kind of looks like fun, but out on the job every day, these operators are digging, they don't know what's under the ground, Thompson said.
"It could be electric lines, it could be water lines, sewer lines, so lots of times they have to dig very closely, very strategically. This sharpens that skill. It challenges that type of skill, so it's a safety event."
DOT representatives said the emphasis on safety helps to prevent accidents on the job equipment damage, all of which has the potential to protect people from harm and save tens of thousands in tax dollars.
According to NCDOT representative Steve Abbott, a dump truck could cost the department approximately $60,000, a backhoe about $70,000, and a full size motor grader could be around $100,000 or more.
Department officials said besides the exercise in safety and skill, the event also gives workers a chance just to take pride in what they do and enjoy the comradery.
"It's nice to get out and do what you do and have fun with it, and see how good you can do it, and see who can do it a little better than the other," NCDOT backhoe contest competitor, Justin Van Valkeenburg said.
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