Work Zone Mobility and Safety Program
Photo collage: temporary lane closure, road marking installation, cone with mounted warning light, and drum separated work zones.
Office of Operations 21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Text from 'FHWA Work Zone Safety Program' PowerPoint Presentation

Slide 1

Revamping NJDOT Maintenance and Operations

Rod Roberson

Slide 2

Project Goals

  • Establish an effective force account maintenance program that:
    • planned work & was performance based
    • was understood by the workforce
    • required no additional general fund $$
    • reduced customer complaints by 50%
  • "Move Operations and Maintenance to the forefront of NJDOT"

Speaker Notes: Maintenance and operations was traditionally viewed to be expendable

  • impacts from lack of maintenance are not immediately recognized
  • many work activities are done transparent to the customer
  • low political value---not many ribbon cuttings at a pot hole repair

Slide 3

Move Operations and Maintenance to the Forefront of the Department

  • "I do not know how to articulate what exactly that means, but I do know what it will feel like, and what it will look like. When Ops and Maint is leading the department, we'll both know it, and we will like it."
    R. Roberson Asst. Commissioner.
    Feb. 1996

Slide 4

What is road maintenance?

  • The term "Road Maintenance" is misunderstood
  • Funding language
    • Capital vs general fund
    • Federal vs state
  • Types of work
    • Recurring activities
    • Routine activities
    • Capital eligible activities

Slide 5

Our Most Valuable Resource "Our Workers"

  • 98% come to work and want to do a good job
    • Employees need to feel needed
    • Employees need to feel important

A strong organizational position on work zone safety requires consistency, continual training and "un-dying" support.

Slide 6

Where we were - 1980

  • 1725 staff
  • 10,000 lane miles
  • Updated equip
  • Modern MMS
  • Maint. Activities
    • Preventive
    • Repairs
  • Minimal contracted out
  • No state TTF $$
  • 4 maint regions
  • Centrally controlled organ.

Slide 7

NJDOT's Ops and Maint. Program

  • Basic Safety Program
    • Outdated safety manual
    • Inadequate safety training
    • Outdated safety devices
    • Rules and P&P that could not be met
    • Neglected workforce
      • Felt disconnected / unappreciated
      • safety was punishment
        We talked safety-

Slide 8

Where we went

  • 1981-first layoff in state history (downsizing)
  • Maintenance impacted by several hundred
  • MMS staff cut
  • Maintenance activities begin to be deferred
  • Training program cut
  • Still building - inventory increasing=?
  • Crews barely keeping up
  • Contracting out based on funding source

Slide 9

The slide continues

  • 1986 second round of layoffs hit maint.
  • Equipment budget slashed
  • Work activities extremely restricted
  • Retirement package offered to lower number of employees
  • Maint. Workforce hit hard

Slide 10

Nearing the bottom - 1992

  • Third round of layoffs
  • (right sizing)
  • No promotions
  • No new hires
  • Work relegated to "putting out fires"
  • MMS is dead
  • Some equipment moves to NJ TTF
  • Focus is on survival
  • No work planning

Slide 11

1994 - Crash - the bottom was much deeper than anyone imagined!!

  • Staffing level 524
  • Features inventory unknown
  • Approximately 15,000 lane miles
  • All salary dollars for 524 employees vanishes
  • no work plan
  • Initiate federal plan- need is for $11M for salary
  • Contractors had open season- we had no records, we weren't working efficiently
  • We could not justify our jobs

Slide 12

Workforce Impacts

  • Employee morale - non-existent
  • No work plan
  • No measure of accomplishment
  • Focus was on survival
    • Stay out of sight
    • Don't block roadways
      no complaints to the front office

Slide 13

Work zone Safety - what happened to it?

  • Employees were rushing from complaint to complaint, putting out fires, answering complaints - of course - everything was to be done yesterday. Trucks and employees were going faster than ever, accomplishments were minimal
  • We talked safety, we did not walk safely.
  • The crews were trying to "save time" and would cut corners or not even set up safety. ("don't block traffic")

Slide 14


  • Contractors
    • Represented-vocal
    • Capital / federal $$
    • Police assistance
    • MUTCD-standards
    • Permanent closure
    • High profile work
    • Tangible / visible
  • Force Account
    • Short duration
    • No capital / fed $$$
    • Minimal police asst
    • MUTCD - vague
    • Low profile work - (no ribbon cutting)
    • High worker exposure

Slide 15

Temporary Set-Ups

  • Greatest exposure is during the construction of the work zones
    • Coordination of setting up safety devices under traffic (planning)
    • Having all employees fully understand what they are to do and when to do it (training)
    • Customers are aggravated by inconvenience
  • MUTCD provides guidance-does not address every situation
  • Availability of training and equipment are directly related to budgets

Slide 16

The turn around begins - 1996

  • Department publicly recognizes that we cannot build our way out of congestion
  • The transportation network must be "operated" efficiently to maximize the resource-where are the controls to operate
  • Ops and Maintenance launches aggressive campaign to assume the role of operator "move to the forefront of the department"

Slide 17


  • Maximize our most valuable resource
  • Apply labor to those activities that we do well, that we know how to do, allow labor to have input to how to do the work.
  • Review the contracted items and de-privatize those activities that we should be doing
  • Develop a schedule for work and stick to it
  • Plan for 70% of available time

Slide 18

Organizational culture change

  • Planning was not something ops and maintenance knew how to do
  • Planning was not something that was seen to have any value
  • Planning was taking time away from doing "our job"

Slide 19

Mission changes

  • The organization required "culture change"
    We needed to run like a business - not like a civil service agency with a unionized workforce. We developed an operations mission statement that reflected our role in meeting the department mission.
    Ops and Maintenance needed to:
    a. become visible -(direct opposite)
    b. challenge ourselves / at all levels
    c. identify / focus on critical activities
    d. Insure that results were known-we had to promote ourselves
    e. Become customer oriented

Slide 20

Why only 70% of time

  • 261 work days
    • 13 holidays
    • 15 sick days
    • 3 admin days
    • 20 va days (avg)
    • 12 rain days (avg)
    • 26 snow days
    • 7 training days
    • 165 available days
  • 165 available days
    • 115 days = 70%
    • 50 days available for incident response
    • respond to complaints
    • Unscheduled work
    • Crew super / pride work

Slide 21

Defining the work program

Quantify the problem

what features and how many are we maintaining? We had no MMS

  • What activities do we do well but still allow us to be flexible in scheduling and work assignment?
  • Routine / recurring / capital
  • Restrict activities - what has to be done
    • No more mowing where not needed

Slide 22

Action steps

  • Review all maintenance activities including those done by contract.
  • Review equipment fleet for activity compatibility-what is still running
  • Assess skill sets of workforce
  • Match skills, equipment and activities

Slide 23

Seize the opportunity-look for work

  • Mix and Match program-ITS projects
    • Over-height, rollover, LED's,
  • Tapped into the knowledge, skills and ability of staff from all areas of ops and maint. married them to non-traditional projects.

Slide 24

Forced networking - new direction

  • Specialty crews had the skills to do the work, needed resources to set up work zone safety.
  • Road crews rec'd training to provide the safety
  • Road crews became IMRT responders working with Traffic Ops and clearing incidents within 2 hrs
  • Coordinate work with T. Ops. -customer sensitive
  • Formed close ties to NJSP - emerg. mgt., field ops, planning units

Slide 25

Activities to do and not to do

  • No
    • High injury cost-guiderail
    • High maint equip-sweeping
    • High skills needed-new const. concrete work
    • Health/safety concerns (pipe, confined space, bridge painting)
    • Took us too long-resurfacing
  • Yes
    • Activities that we like to do (restricted / scheduled mowing)
    • Clear incidents
    • Respond to police emergencies
    • Safety related repairs-signs, delineators,
    • High visibility-litter
    • Sight clearance
    • Snow removal

Slide 26

Driving the plan

  • The work plan was developed by the management team in concert with the workforce.
  • Middle managers disliked the plan more than the field supervisors because they now had to drive it, track it and help their subordinates achieve the program goals
  • Field supervisors were no longer the "reason" work did not get done
  • Middle managers were directly accountable, this was a new concept in NJDOT

Slide 27

Empower the troops-tangible evidence that we cared about them

  • Needed to show employees that they are important and needed
  • Institute supervisory training
    • 5 day resident crew super academy
    • 4 one day seminars on best practices
  • Develop new safety manual
  • Walk the talk about safety
  • Accountability up the chain of command - not down the chain
  • Institute new MMS - federal $$$
  • Promote department mission
  • Promoted agency employee memorial

Slide 28

Empowerment cont.

  • All management levels were required to be visible and accessible to all employees/incorporated in performance contracts
  • Open door policy and encouraged the movement of issues—who knows the issues better than those closest to the work
  • Monthly management forums with AC-off site-federal $$$
  • Monthly regional meetings to share info
  • Decentralize purchasing activities
  • Celebrate the successes-from the 30% tiime
  • Institute work zone safety program-sole value for field supervisors and field employees- federal $$$

Slide 29

Technology / equipment

  • Scorpion impact attenuators all trks
  • Spray patcher-employee comment-buy
  • Polycrack sealer-employee comment-buy
  • HAR's (highway adv. Radio)
  • Portable VMS
  • Emerg. Service Patrol - FHWA partnership
  • 800 mg. hz. Radio
  • Trk mount and trailer arrowboards
  • IMRT teams

Slide 30

Work zone circuit rider program

  • 1999 NJ Division FHWA partnered with NJDOT Ops and Maintenance to institute a "circuit rider" whose single purpose was to educate field supervisors and workers in proper safety set up of work zone safety.
  • Licensed traffic engineer
  • No discipline
  • Tool box meetings
  • On site visits

Slide 31

NJDOT & FHWA Partnership

Photo: Work Zone Safety Program vehicle

Slide 32


Photo: Work Zone Safety Program vehicle

Photo: Representatives from NJDOT and FHWA shaking hands in front of the Work Zone Safety Program vehicle

Slide 33

Lessons learned

  • Management must walk the talk of work zone safety and must be accountable for it.
  • FHWA is a willing partner, with resources beyond $$$. Creative programs can be born regardless of funding issues.
  • Organizations must be effective planners, and part of the plan must be that the organization will change as required to survive and prosper.
  • While we are public sector employees, we are in an extremely competitive business
    TRANSPORTATION, and all of your efforts are recognized and appreciated. You cannot give up.
    Thank you!!!
Office of Operations