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Innovation allows highway workers to safely remove debris without ever leaving their truck

Posted on Tuesday, September 4, 2018 at 12:34 pm

Efforts are underway across the state to make working conditions safer for highway maintenance workers with implementation of a new tool to remove debris that was invented by workers in the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Kansas City District and KC Scout.

The machine — called JAWS — is mounted on a truck and includes an automated drop down skid-plate that can ‘scoop’ debris off the roadway, moving it onto the shoulder where it no longer impedes traffic and can be picked up in a safer manner.

The operator controls JAWS from inside the vehicle, using hand controls and a mounted camera display to quickly and efficiently move debris out of driving lanes and keep traffic flowing – all from the safety of the truck cab. This equipment allows crews to clear the roadway safer and is cost-effective because fewer trucks and personnel are needed.

“Innovation is at the core of our culture and this piece of equipment is just one example,” said MoDOT Chief Engineer Ed Hassinger. “Our employees are challenged to take their ideas, put them into practice so we can continually get better. They found a safer and better way to get the job done.”

MoDOT plans to add at least 27 additional JAWS devices across the state. The department is in the process of having the additional units manufactured.

The idea is a product of the KC Scout Traffic Incident team but it was the support and hard work of the Fleet Team at the Missouri Department of Transportation that brought it to reality. The name JAWS — Julie’s Automated Waste-Removal System — is in memory of MoDOT employee Julie Love who was struck and killed retrieving debris from the roadway in 2004.

In August, JAWS was honored by the Institute of Traffic Engineers Transportation with an Achievement Award-Safety. It also won several awards at MoDOT’s statewide Innovations Challenge last spring, including the Dickson People’s Choice Award.