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Track out

What is “Track-out?”

Track out is just like it sounds, a situation where a vehicle in most cases travels into soft soil and tracks the soil out of the job site.

  • Minor track-out: Usually dust or light gravel, often seen with heavy traffic over a period of days or more
  • Medium track-out: Any trail of debris and or dust in the area of the construction zone
  • Severe track -out: When a trail is seen, dirt clods, most happens right after freeing a stuck vehicle.

Track out is usually a three season malady that plagues the construction industry. As in most modern illnesses prevention is the key. In the event that you get it… Fortunately there is a topical treatment.

We recently caused a track-out incident much to my dismay, we were warned but the conditions changed and the guys got trapped. I was notified by the employee who minimized the severity initially, followed by the client who likely exaggerated the magnitude.

The bottom line is that we dispatched the “biggie fries” brush/vacuum truck to clean it up almost completely on the following day. (No debris made it into the waterways, just a mess on a private lane)

Guilty as charged

Ada County EMS

I actually caused the mother of all track out incidents in the late winter, late Fall of 1981.

I was a Paramedic driving an Ada County ambulance with my partners to the east toward Mountain Home Idaho on I-84. We were headed to rendezvous with a van carrying an injured person headed west from a severe auto accident on a cold crisp sunny morning.

I was new to the area (A recent California transplant) and the median looked solid enough to me… The snow was gone, so when we saw the green van (Do Good Ambulance) with the 4-way flashers headed our way on I veered the rig into what appeared to be a solid median.

We quickly sunk in which was very disorienting, and became completely stuck while my partner Jim Lemieux was telling me very insistently “Don’t make any sudden moves! pull back onto the freeway slowly and gun it! or we’ll flip”. Fortunately I didn’t roll the thing! As I opened the driver door and realized what I had done, I said “Golly, I wish I hadn’t done that” (Or something professional like that). The stress level was through the roof as our patient was taking her last gasps with a life threatening throat injury.

A tow truck was called with an eta of 30 minutes, meanwhile a bystander chained me up to his truck and pulled me out. Naturally I cancelled the tow truck. That is when at the insistence of ISP officer (who had his car out on the path he just created with his patrol car, stomping his feet to show me it was safe and solid, He was waving his arms directing me to cross over immediately.

So, against my better judgement, I gunned it and despite a pretty good head of speed, spraying mud everywhere, I aimed to cross at the improvised turnaround. As I anticipated, I quickly realized that nothing good was going to happen. Slowly losing speed despite gunning it, I sunk the rig in to the muck hopelessly trapped for a second time. It doesn’t get much more stressful than that folks.

Of course, I eventually got pulled out by the same Good Samaritan. Jim, George Nagel, (our rider) and I managed to save the woman who was a Nano second from meeting her maker. I left a trail of track-out from mile marker 65 West bound to the apron at Saint Al’s. It felt like I had square tires as I took off with a lope that gradually turned into a trot then a gallop.

Oh it got cleaned up eventually, I checked. I can only assume that the dude that did that cleaning of the highway was shaking his head at the mess likely cursing me for 20 miles or so. Cleaning the ambulance was no treat either. Lesson learned!

What are BMP’s?

BMP = Best Management Practices

Who was the genius who came up with this term? Why can’t the rest of the governmental agencies use the same principals to get results?

Rather than mandate how to do your job, the erosion and sediment control folks do not profess to be experts…They just state the goal (Keep debris, sediment & erosion out of the waterways) then they give you all sorts of ideas and tricks to accomplish the goal. Use what you want as long as it is working they are cool with it. Here is a link to Idaho ACHD (Ada County Highway District) Idaho BMP suggestions & related information

Track-out prevention:

  • Be aware of meteorological conditions
  • Be aware of geological conditions that make the perfect storm for track-out.
  • Setting up an apron with gravel or some other non-trackable material at the ingress and egress site or sites for the project

Track-out warning signs:

  • Frozen soil in the early morning with predicted warming above freezing
  • Tracks in the soil where it looks like others have been stuck
  • Homeowner warnings of the soil conditions. They know more than you do about their situation. Who wants to hear “I told you so”? This is no time for second guessing.
  • “Testing the water”. If you start to sink-in the moment you enter the site, STOP
Shit happens bumper sticker

Well, it does

“Track-out happens”

  • Like the famous bumper sticker “Shit happens” so does “Track-out”.
  • Notification is the key. Early recognition and accurate reporting, alerting the proper responsible party.
  • Let someone who understands the ramifications of track-out and knows how to treat it, get in the loop ASAP. This will avoid nasty letters and phone calls from all affected parties and possible fines.
  • Slipping under the radar is a futile attempt. It’s only our reputation in your hands. Odds are they know who we are.
  • Do you like your job? Don’t be an “Idiot or a jerk”, assuming that no one saw you is pointless…ergo imagining that it didn’t really happen, is like peeing your pants in public. Trust me…Everyone knows, duh

Track-out treatment

Thankfully we have several companies on standby for the unexpected and the routine treatment of track-out.  Apologizing is a must. As a responsible person, the bottom line is that it is my responsibility to teach others and to be “responsible” for when it does happen and take care to clean up the mess to the best of our abilities.

A special thanks to Evan Jenkins Boise City Erosion & Sediment Control enforcement officer who assisted with this article.

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