Newton County workers putting in simulator training for new equipment
Public Works crew virtually familiarizing themselves with joystick-operated motor grader
NEWTON COUNTY, GA - Newton County’s Public Works employees are preparing to receive a new motor grader by doing something a little out of the ordinary — putting in two hours a day worth of simulator time.
That’s right, in order to ensure safe operation of the sophisticated piece of equipment, 10 Newton County employees are doing things virtually in a Yancey Motor Grader Simulator before stepping behind the joystick of real thing.
The joystick is precisely the reason for the needed simulator time. The 20-year old motor grader that Newton County currently uses to grade, pave and clear roads is equipped with a steering wheel, pedals and nine levers. The new motor grader, which Newton County will purchase following simulator and demonstrator time and pending board of commissioners approval, is operated by joysticks and buttons, similar to what you see in a jet cockpit.
To operate the older vehicle the operator must turn the steering wheel to maneuver, while moving or stopping requires pedals and levers, along with the need to push or pull levers to position the blade. The new machine takes the wheel out of the equation but requires more coordination.
“The operator has to learn to use both hands and both feet simultaneously to work eight functions per hand while using both feet to accelerate and brake the machine,” said Chris Malcolm, Newton County Roads Superintendent. “Studies have shown that the operator has 75 percent less movement using the joy stick control system, which causes less fatigue on the operator. “
Less fatigue is a good thing as the 40-foot-, 36,000-pound machine is unforgiving moving at 35 miles per hour.
Thus far, Malcom said, the training is going well. Kieth Patrick operates the motor grader simulator.
“From what I’ve seen I have been very impressed with their skills and I am ready to see these guys out on the road,” he said.
Along with simulator time, and staying proficient on various pieces of equipment, all public works operators go through in-service as well as classroom and online training to maintain high safety standards.
“The Public Works Department has made great strides in putting safety first, not only for the employee, but the public as well.” Malcom said.
The approximately $200,000 new motor grader is expected to be ordered shortly if approved by the board of commissioners with money already budgeted.