Meet the Crew Behind the Cones: Tyler Derkatch

Posted: June 30, 2020 by Argo Road Maintenance

For our fourth profile, we’re checking in with a member of our Kamloops crew – Tyler Derkatch. Tyler joined our team shortly after completing his Class 3 Driver’s Licence at Thompson Rivers University (TRU). He has become an integral part of our team and is always ready to go out and get the job done – despite experiencing his first roadside scare his second day on the job!

Here is part of his story …

What brought you to road maintenance?

My brother was working in road maintenance and suggested I give it a try. So, I did my Class 3 through TRU, applied to Argo, was hired, and enjoyed having a variety of work instead of doing the same thing every day.

How would you describe your typical day?

It changes so quickly, and every season’s different. Right now, I’m doing dust control on the side roads. We’re also pothole patching, sweeping, mowing and brushing the sides of the highway, and we’ll be paving soon.

I can’t say there’s a typical workday because things change so fast. You don’t really know what you’re going to be doing until your foreman gives you direction, because there could be an accident, someone might have called in sick, or the public might have called in for a pothole repair that needs to take priority or changes the plan.

And the weather is a key factor: You could be in a water truck, and it starts to rain. Now, for the other half of the day, you’re going to fill potholes, pick litter, or change garbage bins.

As part of your job, you’ve learned to operate different pieces of heavy equipment. Could you tell me more about that?

You learn every piece of equipment at a different rate. Some you get the hang of really quickly, and you’re able to drive it right away, others take a lot more practice. Like graders, you don’t become a grader operator in your first couple of years. You might get the hang of it, but you still learn from there on out. Some grader operators learn new things seven years down the road.

Tyler sitting in a skid-steer loader. Skid-steers are used to load, unload, and move material short distances.

How does it compare to driving, say, a truck?

Driving heavy equipment is a lot different. You’re almost the whole lane wide, and longer: you don’t turn like a regular vehicle. Also, large equipment is not supposed to go fast. I can understand how drivers get frustrated when they’re behind us  – we’re turtle pacing everywhere. In the summer, say in a sweeper or grader, we go about 30 km/h when we’re transporting, and a lot slower when we’re working.

[While it can be frustrating to find yourself behind a slow-moving vehicle or waiting in a construction zone, it’s important to slow down and obey traffic control directions and personnel. Tyler tells us why next.]

Tyler standing beside one of our trucks.

You spend a lot of time on the road. Have you had any close calls?

Well, we have many close calls. Some where our heads are down, we’re working, and one of our colleagues notices that we’re about to be hit before we do and grabs us, pulling us out of the danger zone.

So, you’re working – patching a pothole maybe or putting up signage – and a vehicle just zooms by you?

Yeah, exactly. And a co-worker notices, otherwise, …

That sounds terrifying.  What goes on in your head when something like that happens?

A close call is always unsettling – knowing you could have been struck. I wish people knew what that felt like – to have an object going past you at 120km/h (or faster sometimes), and you’re within 4 feet of that.

When something passes you that fast, say a larger vehicle, not necessarily a car, when the wind can actually push you around and make you unbalanced, that’s not fun. Your heart races, and you almost, [he pauses], have anger. You almost lost your life because someone refused to slow down or was distracted and didn’t notice or pay attention to the signage.

Could you think of a recent time where that’s happened?

A recent time? It happens so often that it’s hard to settle on one time. On my second day on the job, I was driving the pilot car, and I was rear-ended on the highway. The driver failed to slow down and merge into the next lane. That right there shows you the risk: within 2-days, I had already been hit.

[A pilot car, for those not familiar with the term, is the vehicle that blocks traffic from entering a work zone. Usually, it merges traffic into the opposite lane. It, along with roadside signage, is essentially the first line of defence for crews working on the road. The vehicle that hit Tyler’s pilot car could have easily hit a flagger or a member of the crew, with even more serious consequences.]

That must have been an awful experience – especially so early on in your career. What keeps you coming back?

I enjoy the work, and you have a sense of pride in your community. You also travel the road, and it could be your family travelling the road, so you’re thinking about them too.

Tyler standing beside one of our plows. This version of the plow is also a liquid brine truck. In the winter, when temperatures are right, we use salt brine to prevent snow from bonding to the roadway.

As drivers, what can we do to ensure you don’t have to have any more experiences like the ones you describe above?

I guess, mainly, just slow down in the work zone. Stay alert, watch for signage. If there are pilot cars, flags, and signage, there’s workers on the road.

Tyler had a pretty scary start to road maintenance, but we’re glad he stuck it out. He works hard, learns quick, and takes ownership of his work. He also has an impressive knack for anticipating potential problems and thinking through the best ways to resolve them ahead of time. When Tyler’s on it, we know he’s paying attention to the little things that will ensure a strong and durable end product.

Want to learn more about our crew's experiences on the road? Check out Reg's, Riley's, and Stan's stories.