Washington county increases productivity

Case Studies
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Phil Meyer, operations manager for the Whitman County Public Works Department, is tireless in his search for the right tools to help his 42-person team maintain over 1,900 miles of roads and 360 bridges and large structures in southeastern Washington.

The search led him to Helac Corp. , the manufacturer of the PowerTilt swing attachment and PowerGrip multi-purpose jaw bucket . The attachments were just what Meyer’s team needed to maintain the county road system by preventing, reducing and restoring roadway infrastructure and maintaining storm water runoff by providing proper drainage.

“We switched to [the swing attachment] from cylinder-style tilting buckets and couldn’t be happier. Our tilting buckets didn’t offer the rotation we needed and weren’t durable enough. [The attachment] provided us with greater angles of rotation, and since all moving parts are fully enclosed, it has been virtually maintenance free,” said Dave Stine, Whitman County equipment operator.

Seven swing attachments and one jaw bucket have been important assets for Whitman County. The public works department has recommended the swing attachment and bucket to other local agencies, such as the Washington State Department of Transportation and the North Latah County Highway Department in Moscow, Idaho.

With a daunting workload and weather that can border on the extreme, productivity, durability and versatility are critical requirements for the county’s equipment. Typical projects for the attachments include ditching to maintain flow lines, culvert maintenance, placing rip-rap, brush removal, bridge demolition, gabion basket installation and sloping.

The attachment, according to the public works department, is effective for shoulder maintenance tasks. Great care is required when ditching and sloping next to fragile habitats, and consideration must be paid to the most effective water runoff target zones. The main objective is to provide shoulder stability by creating a smooth transition from roadway surface to shoulder. Using the swing attachment’s 180 degrees of smooth rotation, the equipment operator can work primarily from the road surface, diminishing the impact on sensitive roadside vegetation and habitats but producing the clean V-shaped ditches the department requires.

When working on a culvert project, the swing attachment reduces the need for tough manual labor. It is used to angle the bucket to dig around both sides of the pipe. Once the soil is loosened around the pipe, the equipment operator can hook the end of the pipe and lift it right out. “You can accomplish most tasks with just an equipment operator and a truck driver, resulting in much better utilization of our team,” Stine said.

The bucket has proven very helpful in placing rip-rap around bridges and removing the old wooden pilings.

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