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PennDOT Crews Pursue Maintenance with a Mission

June 17, 2024 01:00 PM
By: Yasmine Martin

​When you see PennDOT maintenance crews replacing roadway pipes or clearing roadside vegetation, you might not realize they are completing important maintenance activities that keep our transportation system running. Even though they are not building new bridges or highways, their work is crucial to preserving them. The maintenance crews are responsible for tasks like shoulder cutting, line painting, signing and more. Year-round, you can spot maintenance operators providing vital services to Pennsylvania citizens from behind the wheel of equipment like snowplows, graders, mowers, pavers, rollers, backhoes and dump trucks.

Being a part of the maintenance crew is an opportunity to keep the roads safe, and for our Montoursville-based District 3 operators, it is also a chance for professional and personal growth.

Transportation Equipment Operator (TEO) Logan Gillaspy first joined the Columbia County maintenance team through PennDOT's Transportation Equipment Operator Trainee (TEOT) program. During the on-the-job training, he learned more about highway construction, maintenance, equipment and general labor practices. At the conclusion of the six-month program, he achieved a long-standing goal—acquiring his Commercial Driver's License (CDL).

“I always wanted to get my CDL," said Gillaspy. “I learned how to drive a truck, and then I got my CDL through [PennDOT]."

During the TEOT program, trainees obtain their CDL and upon successful completion of the program, they're promoted to Transportation Equipment Operator A (TEOA).

The TEOT and TEOA positions are part of the Transportation Equipment Operator (TEO) series, which includes four positions: Transportation Equipment Operator Trainee (TEOT), Transportation Equipment Operator A (TEOA), Transportation Equipment Operator B (TEOB) and Transportation Operator Specialist (TEOS).

Operators play a crucial part in construction and maintenance work. The positions are hard work, but they are a good fit for people interested in hands-on, physical activities.

“I love my job," said Joseph Ferry, District 3 transportation equipment operator. “I like getting up in the morning, and I like the co-workers that I'm with."

Keeping motorists moving is one of the most essential and rewarding parts of the job. During storms, operators are out at all hours plowing snow, clearing debris from the road or blocking unsafe routes. The work can be intensive and performed under extreme conditions, but a well-maintained transportation system is critical for our motorists.

In addition to enjoying the company of his co-workers and maintaining our roads, Ferry also enjoys the “phenomenal" personal benefits that the position offers. The flexible hours and earning potential are just a few of his favorite benefits. This year, he celebrated his 10th year as a transportation equipment operator.

Like Gillaspy, Ferry champions the opportunities at PennDOT. “There's opportunity here at PennDOT depending on what route you want to go. You can stay general maintenance, or you can go into management," said Ferry.

PennDOT employees are provided many opportunities to grow professionally while working for the department. Through the Career Development Plan (CDP), employees can create their own roadmap to success. The CDP helps employees assess and develop skills, establish goals and identify the plan to achieve the goals.

Employees interested in supervisory and management roles can also move into positions like highway foreman, county maintenance manager and maintenance services manager.

One District 3 maintenance team member who is currently in a management role is Mindy Foresman.

Knowing she wanted to work for PennDOT when she began studying civil engineering, Foresman applied for and secured an internship with the department. This internship led to a successful 26-year career with the department.

“When [people] find out I work for PennDOT, they used to ask me if I was a flagger because that was always the perception," said Foresman. “That women are the flaggers."

Flaggers are an important component of construction and maintenance work at PennDOT, but that is not Foresman's job. As District 3's maintenance services manager, her overall responsibilities include overseeing the maintenance of the over 4,500 miles of roads within the nine-county region, supplying materials (such as salt, cinders, etc.) and fleet management. In addition, she supervises the municipal services, maintenance services (maintenance of District 3 buildings and property) and posted and bonded road units. When municipalities are figuring out how to use liquid fuels funds, Foresman oversees the staff who help them too.

Her favorite thing about her job is being able to make a difference.

Long-term PennDOT projects take time to study, plan, fund and construct, “It might be a couple of weeks, couple of months, a couple of years [to complete a project], but we also can come in during a flood or during a snow event and plow and clear the roads. We can make people's lives better immediately. We can make great long-term and immediate benefit in people's lives."

Through their positions on the District 3 maintenance team, Foresman, Ferry and Gillaspy make a difference in countless lives across the commonwealth. Their tireless hard work contributes to a transportation system that couldn't run without them. For prospective employees looking to join the PennDOT maintenance team, Foresman extends supportive words.

 “There are so many opportunities, and we encourage anybody to go for any training," said Foresman. “You don't want to limit yourself."​

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