M-DOT workers compete in "Roadeo" - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

M-DOT workers compete in "Roadeo"

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

If you were out on local roads Thursday you may have seen a few less Mississippi Department of Transportation workers on projects along the asphalt. That is because a good number of them were in Hattiesburg, tooling around in some big vehicles, competing in the annual M-DOT Roadeo.

Every year M-DOT equipment operators gather for a day of strategy and competition.

"You have to be able to back it up, if you go out there talking game you going to have to come down to reality, you're going to have to do it," said M-DOT operator Oliver Leggett.

More than 80 Sixth District workers came to the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Center parking lot - getting a paid day off the job and a free lunch - to sign up and drive in any of six events.

The courses are difficult and meticulously scored because that is how the job is.

Orange cones lining obstacle course routes made the parking lot look a little bit like a drivers education course but it is not; M-DOT drivers need to be exact.

When you see a big yellow backhoe on the job, it is not just shoveling dirt - the operator is avoiding flammable gas lines or tiny wires - so the test at the Roadeo is picking up a tiny pink golf and dropping it into a canister.

"They've got some of the highest skills of anyone including private business and we'll put them against anybody," said Southern District Transportation Commission Tom King.

The winners of the Sixth District courses compete for the state title in Gulfport, but nearly all the men at the event know each other by name and if they're coworkers, they are also friends, and they are out here to have fun.

"Sometimes we have bets on who's going to get closest, on who's going to carry away the competition," said Leggett.

The guys out at the course have tough jobs - it is physical work, it is dangerous, and they are some of the lowest paid M-DOT workers.

"They're in a dangerous position," said Cape Jones, Sixth District Assistant Maintenance Manager. "These are the guys that are out close to traffic every day and we really want to stress to drivers, motorists, when you see these guys out there you know, give them a break, slow down, give them a little room, this is their office and it's a dangerous work place."

Copyright 2012 WDAM. All rights reserved.

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