A highway maintenance worker ensures that highways and roads across the country stay in safe and working order. A highway maintenance worker must complete a variety of tasks on these roadways including regular maintenance, snow and ice removal, creating dividing lines, and fixing any defects in the road such as potholes caused by wear and tear and extreme weather.
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A maintenance worker generally spends their days on highway sites that are in need of repair. They will go to the problem area, assess the situation, and implement the proper solution. In terms of regular highway maintenance, they will perform such duties as paving uneven or damaged highways, painting traffic lines and dividers, and even expanding upon the current highway infrastructure.
A highway worker is also called out during times of extreme weather. In northern climates they will salt the roads in preparation for snowstorms and then operate plows to clear the roads during and after the storms. They will also remove any trees, fallen rocks, or other debris that may block the highway and inhibit traffic.
A highway worker will need to acquire experience and the necessary certifications in order to operate certain heavy machinery such as single and two-man plows, salt trucks, blowers, mowers, forklifts, and cherry pickers, among others. Maintenance workers will also be expected to learn how to care for these machines, including changing the oil, mounting and dismounting the plows, cleaning filters, and other regular maintenance activities. Most highway workers will need to have a valid class C and class D driver's licenses as well as be in good standing with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
A highway worker has a physically demanding job and will work in every kind of weather conceivable, and most of their work time will be spent outdoors. They must be able to spend a great deal of time on their feet and lift heavy objects. They must also be able and willing to work along stretches of road where cars will still be traveling at high rates of speed and will often perform the action of directing traffic during construction or other incidents.
Most highway maintenance positions do not require an advanced degree. A high school diploma or GED will usually suffice, although employees who wish to work for the state may have to pass a civil service examination. Most highway workers will learn the skills while on job and through training made available by their employer. Maintenance workers must have strong reading and writing skills and must be able to follow specific directions. For many machines used in the trade, additional certificates are required, which are usually provided free of charge by the employer. These certificates are earned during work hours.
Since maintenance workers work with heavy machinery many employers will require that applicants pass a drug test as well as a criminal history check, though the specifics of this will vary from location to location. There is also an age restriction and in most places applicants must be over the age of 18.
A highway maintenance worker will usually operate as a member of a team, and older and more experienced employees will train the new employees on the more specific aspects of their jobs. Maintenance workers will usually be outside on the highway itself and therefore must be in good health and prepared to work irregular hours. Maintenance employees will have to work in rain, sleet, snow, heavy winds and heat waves, as they must correct any problems to the highways that extreme weather may create. They will often have to work overnight in order to keep the flow of traffic free for morning and afternoon commuters and rush hour traffic.
Compensation can vary from place to place. Highway maintenance workers are government workers. For this reason, their salary is paid by the local taxes. Cities and other expanding urban developments may have a larger budget and will thus be able to offer higher compensation than more rural areas with smaller populations.
Highway workers are generally paid hourly, but they can also expect to work overtime and receive overtime pay. Their compensation will also change if they join or are automatically enrolled in a union upon hiring.
An average beginning salary could start around $14.00 an hour. But as a worker completes more on-the-job training and learns additional skills, they can expect their pay rate to increase; and after becoming an expert, they can expect to make around $25.00 an hour.