Highway Maintenance Workers
On the Job
Highway maintenance workers make basic repairs to highways and rural roads.
Why is it that one week, driving on the highway is no problem, and the next, there seem to be potholes everywhere? The answer is probably rain. Water seeps into cracks in the road. Then, as cars drive on the road, the tires vibrate over the crack, and the asphalt gives way. Freezing temperatures can also be the culprit, as well as heavy vehicles such as trucks and buses. If potholes aren't fixed, potholes can not only damage your tires, but also struts, wheels, and springs. Because of this, most local governments fix potholes regularly. The people who do this work are highway maintenance workers.Highway maintenance workers do minor repairs. For example, they fill potholes and cracked road surfaces. They also may clean and repair tunnels and small bridges. Major repairs such as repaving surfaces are done by paving equipment operators.
Highway maintenance workers drive trucks with coworkers and equipment to work sites. Before starting work, workers set up signs to warn drivers that construction is ahead. They also set up cones to direct traffic around work areas. Some workers may flag drivers to slow down or divert them to another lane.
Maintenance workers perform many different duties. They install road markers and other signs. To do this, they take measurements and use tape, string, or chalk to mark sign locations. They use hand and power tools to dig holes and erect the signs. They use a similar process to install and repair guardrails and snow fences. When button-type lane markers break or detach, maintenance workers repair them. In addition, they paint lane markers. They may also repair lights.
In the winter, maintenance workers drive trucks equipped with snow plows or snow blowers to clear the roads. In the summer, they drive mowers to cut grass along highways. They also perform other landscaping duties, such as planting, trimming, and weeding. They may also clean litter and debris from roads, ditches, and drains. In addition, they may use chemicals to get rid of rodents and unwanted brush.
To repair broken pavement, maintenance workers use power tools to break pavement into smaller sections. They use other equipment to remove the broken sections. They fill these holes with asphalt and operate tamping equipment to tightly pack the asphalt.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Drive trucks to work sites.
- Set construction signs and cones around work area to divert traffic.
- Flag drivers to warn them of road work or obstacles.
- Measure and mark locations to install markers.
- Erect, install, and repair road signs, guardrails, button-type lane markers, lights, and snow fences.
- Perform landscape duties, including mowing grass, clearing weeds and brush, and planting trees.
- Dump and spread asphalt to patch broken pavement.
- Paint traffic control lines.
- Inspect, clean, and fix bridges, tunnels, and other structures.
- Remove litter and debris from roads. Clean ditches, culverts, and drains.
- Use poisons and herbicides to eliminate unwanted animals and weeds.
- Drive vehicles and special equipment to remove snow and ice.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Operate vehicles or mechanized equipment.
- Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
- Control machines and processes.
- Repair and maintain mechanical equipment.
- Perform activities that use the whole body.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Estimate sizes, quantities, time, cost, or materials needed.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Work for the public.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Schedule work and activities.
- Handle and move objects.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Process information.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Are responsible for the health and safety of drivers and coworkers.
- Have a medium level of social contact. Maintenance workers often work in teams, but may also spend time working alone.
- Communicate in person on a daily basis. They communicate less often by telephone.
- Regularly work in a group or as part of a team.
- Are responsible for the work outcomes and results of other workers.
- Work mainly outdoors. In addition, they regularly drive enclosed vehicles, such as trucks, and open vehicles, such as mowers.
- Nearly always wear protective attire, such as gloves, hats, and work boots.
- Are constantly exposed to extremely hot or cold temperatures while working outdoors.
- Are often exposed to contaminants, such as when spreading asphalt.
- Are often exposed to sounds and noise levels that are uncomfortable.
- Are sometimes exposed to hazardous equipment.
- Are often exposed to extremely bright or dim lighting conditions.
- Are sometimes exposed to hazardous situations that may result in cuts or minor burns.
- Work near others, usually within a few feet.
- Must be exact in their work. Errors could affect the safety of the roads they maintain.
- Make decisions that affect others on a weekly basis. This is because they make most decisions without talking to a supervisor.
- Set some tasks and goals without talking to a supervisor, but usually consult with another first.
- Must keep pace with the speed of equipment.
- Usually work full time.
- Generally work a set schedule. However, they may work overtime to meet deadlines. This may include working weekends and holidays.
- May work seasonally.
- May travel to areas where workers are needed.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Use hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Bend or twist their body.
- Repeat the same movements.
- Stand or walk for long periods of time. May run during emergencies.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Use fingers or hands to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
- See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Adjust body movements or equipment controls to keep pace with speed changes of moving objects.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- Be physically active for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Use muscles for extended periods without getting tired.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- While looking forward, see objects or movements that are off to the side.
- See objects in very low or very bright light.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
- Determine from which direction a sound came.
- Keep or regain the body's balance or stay upright when in an unstable position.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.