Caltrans Maintenance Workers

Caltrans Maintenance Workers


he taught me how to ride my bike he’s
because for my baseball team play help. me with my math homework he holds my
hand while we watch scary movies because. the things he does helps all. be alert our parents are at work the
first day I got here my supervisor had. actually gotten struck by another
vehicle and they were trying to get the. vehicles off the freeway and find the
person who had who had hit him I had no. idea what I was getting into I thought
it was just we were just a construction. crew which was the other side of freeway
I had no idea that I would be. interacting with the actual public and
the motoring public and putting myself. in danger on the side of the freeway
while doing 22 repairs I was like a. whirlwind I didn’t expect to be out in
the freeway and exposed to live traffic. but at the same time I was trying to do
my job at the time we were trying to. fill a sinkhole in the center median
well when you see a crew out there you. have to be mindful that we’re they’re
trying to do their job so they’re. they’re not fully aware what’s going on
around them. so if they can help and and slow down
possibly make sure they’re give those. workers plenty of room as they’re going
by and give them that courtesy that. would make those guys feel a lot better
because you’re you’re doing a job that. Intel’s focus and you’re at the same
time you’re trying to be as safe as. possible and stay out of danger which is
pretty much impossible because you’re. always a danger whether or not
everyone’s trying to be safe are mace or. March 6 2015
we’re evolved in a sleeping train in the. center median southbound – and I was
struck while I was sitting in the truck. my truck was struck by motorists
traveling over 100 miles an hour and the. energy traveled through the truck and
threw me. we aware when it happened the first
thing I could do was rely on my training. and my experience and I tried to get out
of my vehicle and make sure they were. safe because I’d noticed they were
injured. I offer my assistance not realizing that
I was a that I was injured my adrenaline. was pumping I noticed immediately after
after she struck me that she got out and. she was she was injured she was bleeding
I noticed that she had gone around to. the passenger door and she was screaming
for someone inside the vehicle so. immediately I knew something someone
else was in that vehicle as I passed by. I realized they were pulling in a child
out of the car who was injured and. bleeding and after I put out a few
flares I did what I was taught to do and. to offer my assistance being trained in
first aid and it was just something that. I didn’t even think of it was second
nature we’ve been trained continuously. on how to best serve the public and keep
them safe and so I was just doing my job. before I realized that I was hurt I
ended up on disability for a little over. a year I had two surgeries on my knee I
ended up with some back problems I’m. still that still exists
I lost 60% of the ability in my left arm. and yes that was that was a really bad
situation. luckily the person lived but she was she
was very well injured and so was her. nine-year-old daughter our job is is to
provide a safe transportation system for. you guys
and you know it’s not just for the. public it’s far for for us too and we do
whatever we can out there and our lives. are on the line we want to go home to
our families we want to go home in one. piece
and with the injuries that I prefer from. this last incident has been really hard
it’s been really hard on me I can’t I. can’t play with my kids the way I used
to I can’t go on the family outings. with them all the time because I can’t I
can’t keep up so it’s really taken a lot. away from my family life unfortunately
is something that that I have to deal. with now. working it just seems like the public
doesn’t fully understand the issues that. we have we have some of that most
heavily traveled freeways in the world. and we go to great efforts to try and
minimize when we work to minimize the. impact on the public but we also have
the ports so you not only have a lot of. traffic but you have heavy vehicles and
these don’t just because there’s a lot. of cars doesn’t mean that we can be on
the road less these are actually. degrading the highways faster and so the
repair work we need to do is more. important and we live in area where
people are busy this is an area that. everybody’s here we know the traffic’s
bad people are excuse e and so they. become impatient and they don’t stop to
realize how difficult the job is or how. important the job is and the whole
reason for doing it is never to just. impact people’s travel we do all we can
to minimize that but in the end these. repairs have to be made at a big pothole
can blow out a tire and cause an. accident and that can lead to greater
delays and we do have accidents and. issues that happen just from errant
drivers but we try and do everything we. can to minimize impact but keep the
roads safe and unfortunately when these. things like maintenance projects have to
be done they do have an impact on. traffic because there’s just no time
that we can work that doesn’t have an. impact on traffic 24 hours a day and
we’re in a tricky predicament with the. work we do because to make the major
part of the commuter commuters happy. well then we’re going to have a negative
impact on the residents that live next. to the freeway so no matter when we do
the work it has an impact on somebody. and nobody likes it so we always are
going to have someone that is unhappy. with the way we’re doing things and I
think that’s something that the public. doesn’t understand a lot is that when we
have to do work on the freeways and you. know the jokes about how many people you
see standing around but you see we have. a requirement to block lanes to have
shadow trucks barrier trucks so we might. have a lot of individuals required to
put in a lane closure for a job that. takes one or two people to do
so it’s not that these people are out. there wasting time but to follow our
construction safety orders in Chapter. eight these are requirements and so we
have to have all these vehicles and. cones and signs guys blocking the ramps
all that goes into just getting us to. have a somewhat safe work zone so that
whatever the task is can be performed. and so that’s I think another thing that
falls on the public that they don’t. fully understand that there’s a lot that
goes into just getting access to where. we have to do the job at hand and there
is no opportune time to do it if three. o’clock in the morning is a good time to
do it if that’s not when traffic’s the. most minimal that we still have to put
up with that and I’ve been fortunate I. haven’t been injured
I haven’t had been hit by any of these. items thrown and I have pretty thick
skin so I don’t get hurt by people. calling me names but at the same time
what’s what’s the point what’s the. purpose we’re just trying to get
something done we’re trying to do as. fast as we can and get out of your way
so we don’t have to be there anymore my. first day with Caltrans I’m I kind of
hadn’t ingested totally what I had. signed up for my supervisor sent me out
with another employee we was out on the. shoulder and I was like wow because all
the cars were passing by so fast and the. wind and everything I just I just never
had you know been out there like that. before I was I actually was a little
scared to be honest because uh you know. it was working on the freeway and it’s
inherently dangerous when I made. operator we were out doing a sweeping
operation which is a moving closure. we’re coming up the ramp it was a two
lane ramp as I was coming up. we obviously traffic is backing up
backing up backing up some of the. drivers just you know they didn’t want
to wait a lot of people were getting. over to the right early on because
because we’re on the hill they could see. us from far back but I guess this guy
just didn’t see and he just got. impatient and he wanted to just go so he
jumped out of the the right lane and. jumped over to the left lane where we
were and he raced up and all of a sudden. I saw this guy coming and so I let off
the brake a little bit to ease the. impact he hit my box
crashed into my box he survived and he. was trembling you know and we kept you
know you okay he was like okay I’m okay. okay he just wanted to get out of there
I think what I would say to him is have. patience in LA because the traffic
situation is is very bad for a lot of. people but we in Caltrans we’re steadily
trying to improve that situation it’s. just not easy there’s a lot of factors
involved but we want you to know that. everything that we do out there is for
you to get home for you to get to work. for you to get home to be with your
family and I want him to know that my. job is to make sure that the road is
safe for him to get it home to his. family
every day I want them to know that. I actually felt important it felt had a
filling to where I had a position that. actually meant something with a with a
company that was which was a state that. had a strong presence I had an idea of
what I was getting myself into. that’s for sure he trims a lot of trees
and it’s peaceful up there is quiet and. to the rats and also Swift and start
coming out it you got to be really. careful to not get Ringo from fall on
you and you suffocate her something. inside of it I were I was rented by
18-wheeler I was in the truck by myself. we were in route we were caravanning to
our next location and traffic hewed on. the 57 freeway and the truck driver did
not notice the traffic he did not I. I watched him I never actually came to a
stop he hit me before I even came to a. stop so I slammed into my coworker who
was in a one-ton pickup truck in front. of me the back of his head shattered out
the back windshield and then after I hit. him
the truck hit again as a second impact I. have multiple bows and herniated discs
in my neck and lower back. I had to undergo two surgeries and my
lower back from a michael discus kepta. me and then a final fission yeah they
were another close cause we were in the. center median the center to turn into
the fuel station and I guess there was a. motorist
she was impatient and she went her she. went around my vehicle on opposing
traffic side she ran into the steering. axle to the of my truck and the tires
which wrap my shoulders around and just. she separated both of my shoulders she
said she was around the corner from her. job trying not to be late I felt she
treated me as an obstacle instead of a. person please try to see us as people
trying to do our job. you know what I do remember my first day
being in the field I was really excited. about being out being with Caltrans I
thought it was a good organization I. didn’t know a lot about Caltrans I just
seen the trucks out there but I was. really excited about being out there at
that time I thought you know I have the. vest I have the hardhat
we had cones the people respect us out. here I thought they were happy that we
were out here so I was happy to be out. there to be a service so I was ecstatic
ah yes when they started giving me the. your number one sign half a peace sign
when they start throwing things at us. when I start saying a few words that you
know pulling up behind us and different. operations trying to cut cutting through
our closures you know I like to tell me. we’re not here to screw your dare we
china we’re here to make sure that you. get home to your family like we want to
get home to our family we’re out there. to make sure that the roads are safe and
drivable you know if we’re not out there. there’s a chance of you if something
does happen out there that you might not. make it on to your family if the
guardrail does not fix correctly if the. potholes is not fixed the protection
that’s out there that’s built in for it. it’s not out there then if something
happened to it you run into it you could. be killed and are seriously injured and
I make it on that day lost a tire big. lost his tire yeah I was protecting us
bravery operation and actually the tire. it went airborne because the this the
Box was down it did not hit the box it. did not hit the back of the truck it
actually went over there the two-ton. truck leaned into the back and when it
landed and landed right behind my head. and it actually busted out the back
window moved the cab about seven to. eight inches where the seat was actually
sticking off the back of the truck well. a lot of times we say out there weren’t
they see the orange and they come. straight forward so I don’t know if they
intended. it seemed like they they direct a
vehicle straight toward us you know they. see the cones and they think you know a
that’s the way to go because our. employees been struck out there on the
side of the freeway. people being inattentive you know in a
rush trying to get to where they wanted. to go to and not paying not paying us in
the attention you know they have one. goal in mind and that was to get to
their destination the things that we. have to contend with out there you know
they’re just driving alone you know most. of them have never actually stopped on
the side of the freeway. but I’ve talked to people who have
actually had a blowout or ran out of gas. or their vehicle has stopped on a
freeway and there Davis said you know. what it’s really nerve-racking just to
get out there shutting down a freeway. with the swarm and stuff like that we
judges do quite a bit of work out there. without you know worried about being hit
out there on the freeway or I like being. in danger by the motoring public so most
people don’t realize you know that we. have so many people out there they’re
driving distract the staff they’re. driving they’re doing so anything that
they didn’t turn the office and their. car into an office they’re under drugs
and not only illegal drugs but a lot of. people under prescription you know you
have people using alcohol you know that. call me there texting there they are on
the telephone so and then a lot. something up their attention you know
and with a lot of time we’re the ones. who pay the price for that. well you know coming working in Caltrans
was a brand new thing because it had. such variety of things to do compared to
a regular electricity was working on. commercial industrial but working on the
highways was a whole new welcome. experience because of the vast
difference of things to work on so it. was pretty exciting was a an experience
I was looking forward to because now you. have both perspectives one is a driving
in a public you know on the freeway and. then also working on a freeway so now
you have a respect for those that are. working on the freeway and you’re much
more aware of those that are out there. and try to take much more caution and be
aware to avoid any type of problems out. there and my job was to you know secure
things and and to I would travel and do. certain call-outs you know whether light
is out a pole is knocked down it. happened to be one Wednesday night that
I got a call out if there’s a knock down. pole at the 77 10 and 91 interchange so
I get out of my truck I parked my truck. put down the cones and everything the
flashing strobe lights and you know. rotators was on and I simply got out of
my truck and began to clear the pole out. of the route of the roadway and so I was
out there alone yes all alone you know. did all the things that I needed to do
and then I proceeded to walk towards the. knock down a street light pole and as
you imagine can imagine I walked about. thirty feet away from the truck and was
ready to move the pole and all of a. sudden there was a loud crash 72
Cadillac boom as I could remember ran. into the truck and all I could hear was
a big bang it pushed it absolutely 30. feet and it was right against me and all
I can remember was flying backwards. on the shoulder and winding on the
ground but the amazing thing about it I. guess God sent an angel because
realistically I should not be able to. move all I remember was flying backwards
the truck would have hit me you know I. don’t know if inertia whatever pressure
it’s I was flying backwards so I was on. the ground and the next thing I realized
is that I didn’t feel myself I felt. invisible if I could turn it like that
and I could see everything as in a vapor. and it seemed like was I still here and
I’m thank God one of the fortunate ones. that can tell my story to those maybe
that have lost loved ones but I was able. to get up and I was you know I was like
in the days in the haze and all of a. sudden I was trying to figure out where
I was and the next thing I knew I felt. warm blood coming down this eyebrow I
said oh thank God I’m still here so I. moved the truck I ran to rescue the guy
who hit me who hit the truck on the. other connector saved his life because
it was a very dark interchange at that. time and was able to get CHP out there
and everyone rescued crew fire. department and ambulance and was able to
save his life and the guy that hit me by. the way come to find out he was on drugs
and drinking at the time so those are. things that would definitely impair your
judgment out there and someone that came. by and told me says yeah the guy was in
the number one lane and he zoomed all. the way over to the shoulder and hit
your car hit the truck and as they say. you know those things the strobe light
sometime attract people that are. impaired with their either drugs or
alcohol and it was the certainly in the. situation that occurred there. I did
caltrans was I just assumed you know you. have the court referrals on the side of
the road and that’s what they did I. didn’t see too much at Caltrans you know
aside from you know on my regular you. know driving it in my personal vehicle
so but even then I didn’t know that’s. what Caltrans was or you know find out
you know what they did you know that. they were the ones responsible for what
happened on the grapevine you know that. they you know had I never knew about the
i-80 and that there was snow and that. you know there was a major thoroughfare
and how they used to do stuff like that. and then you know just I didn’t know
they actually dealt with accidents like. spills I always thought that was just
you know a contractor that came out and. took care that my last year out in the
field I was in charge of the five. through Valencia all the way up to the
grapevine and every every accident was a. catastrophe when I was working out in
Ventura County as a supervisor we we. would routinely get a lot of head-ons
because the section of road I took care. of was two-lane highway and you know he
you come out and and you’re there for. the scene closing everything down and
waiting for the fire department to get. there and you know you know that
somebody’s loved one isn’t coming home. and in some instances you know not until
the investigations done with you really. don’t know what happened it was a child
that got thrown out of a car that was I. still remember the location and
everything you know it was it was pretty. bad we did a full freeway closure got
out there and and you know there was. more than one fatality there and one of
them was a child car seat you know got. thrown got ejected and I’m assuming that
you know maybe the seat wasn’t put in. correctly uh uh you know I don’t know
but yeah it pretty close to home because. I at the time I had young kids at home
still so just be aware I mean you know. we’re out there you know there’s there’s
you know guys with families out there. that are just trying to do their
eight-hour. a job and go home you know a lot of
times you know they may inconvenience. inconvenience you but you don’t know
what the reason is for the inconvenience. you know it could be a fatality and
that’s why they’re closing it you know. the the lane the ramp the whole thing
because you don’t know what what’s up. ahead I was a you know a landscape
maintenance worker did you know. chainsawing you know digging holding you
have the normal run-of-the-mill stuff. spraying chemicals just the stuff you do
as a landscape worker and I was doing. irrigation duty that day me and a
co-worker had gone out together and what. we got our plumbing truck I had bent
down to turn on a water valve you know. facing traffic chapter eight you know
rules is my understanding that my. coworker was watching my back and in
just a split second I was run down by a. speeding truck it was so quick it was
just like lightning it struck it was a. beautiful gorgeous dry you know January
day and it’s like 10 o’clock in the. morning just a little sparkly days and
then all of a sudden boom you’re on the. ground and what happened you know so I
never saw the vehicle. not till I saw pictures way later months
later and I guess truck frame of the car. body was one of these big thick chrome
bumpers I bent the damn bumper I was. knocked out of my boots literally thrown
maybe 20 feet. and I guess remember lying there and I’m
not sure how long I was there my sense. of time is really screwed up it seemed
like a long time at one point but in. just a split second I was run down by a
speeding truck and I was knocked out of. my boots literally they did cut my chest
open sewed up a couple of organs and I. think I had a transfusion at that time
because I lost a lot of blood in my. chest
and then they waited a few days to see. if I was going to live I was in the
hospital for about six weeks they were. going to offer me you know permanent
disability and I told them at that point. that you know if I can’t work I’ll go
crazy so they allowed me to work but. just not back out in the field I enjoyed
my work it’s I was probably in the best. shape of my life I had been on that job
for probably about four years and over. the years you know you get into shape
and you get used to working out in the. Sun you get used to working with your
crew and I enjoyed it I didn’t like the. danger part like we joked about dodging
cars you know what do you do for work I. dodge cars but you know back when I was
in the field that was a common. expression in maintenance like yeah you
know everybody agreed that you know it’s. a dangerous job and still here we are 20
years later I don’t understand how it is. that the workers that you know have
exposure to the. highway don’t get hazard pay. you.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

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