New equipment helps country maintain roads
Sandoval County is a rural New Mexico region of approximately 4,000 square miles where growth is the buzz word. Thanks in large part to the presence of Intel Corp., the world’s largest computer chip manufacturer, towns in the county are rapidly expanding.
Seventy-six thousand people live in the county, and 41,492 of them live in Rio Rancho, a city termed by local government officials as “the fastest growing small town in America.”
The county has 2,000 miles of roads that require routine maintenance. Thirteen hundred of those miles are dirt and gravel.
Much of the terrain is mountainous and temperatures range from a chilly wintertime 0[degrees]F to hot summer highs of more than 100[degrees]F.
To deal with those roads, county commissioners approved a $4.4 million finance package for new road equipment – including trucks, trailers, loaders and graders – enabling county public works officials to replace an aging, mismatched and inefficient fleet of heavy duty work trucks with 14 new Kenworth T800s. Seven of the trucks are tandem 10-yard dumps; four are 1,000-gallon water trucks; and three are tractors – each one used to haul heavy equipment on low-boy trailers.
“It was really a monumental task for the staff to get this budget proposal together, but the efforts paid off when the commissioners agreed to provide the new trucks,” says Joe Lang, Sandoval County Commission chairman. “It’s made our road department much more efficient.”
The county includes three mountain ranges that straddle the Continental Divide. Three roadyards within the county – Jemez, Cuba and Bernalillo – are supplied with equipment to service roads.
The largest area, Cuba, is also the highest in elevation with roads at an average elevation of 7,000 feet and includes the most dirt roads.
From November to March, crews remove snow, attaching 12-foot sweep blades to the front bumpers or using salt spreaders to melt lighter accumulations.
In the spring and summer months, they grade and repair the damage from a harsh winter’s wear. Most trucks in the Cuba roadyard typically are driven 3,000 miles to 4,000 miles per month. Trucks in the Jemez and Bernalillo roadyards average between 1,500 miles and 2,000 miles per month on roads with less grade and in lower elevations. Three of the county’s four water trucks are each assigned to a county roadyard, and one is used at the county’s sanitary landfill.
“With the new equipment, our maintenance frequency has gotten a lot better,” says George Griego, former superintendent of roads for Sandoval County and now the county’s Loss Prevention Specialist. “We used to maintain all 2,000 miles of roads on a quarterly basis. Now, we can get to all of them every month, thanks to the reliability of our new equipment.”
In the past, when the county added a truck to its fleet, it was usually a hand-me-down from the state’s public works department.
That led to inconsistencies in the make and size of the fleet and its capabilities, as well as challenges in keeping the trucks running and maintaining a steady parts inventory.
Because the county’s maintenance department also is charged with the upkeep of all the count ‘s vehicles – including fire and police vehicles, motor pool and heavy equipment – replacing the road department’s old trucks became a necessity, according to Lang.
“Because the maintenance department’s workload had grown so much in recent years – and a large part of that was the constant need to service our fleet – we had to find a way to reduce shop time for the road department’s vehicles and cut down on the workload,” he says. “We’re already seeing the benefits with these trucks in lower maintenance costs, less down time and higher productivity.”
For the heavy-duty work required of the equipment, each truck is spec’d with heavy-duty frames and suspensions, along with Cummins M 1 1 electronic engines, rated at 370 horsepower and driven through Rockwell 13-speed transmissions and Rockwell front and rear axles.