Name: Eric Hartless
Current Job: Supervisor for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Leesburg-area headquarters
Betcha didn’t know: This past year, Eric won first place statewide in the VDOT “Roadeo” skills competition for tandem-axle dump truck.
1. How long have you been working at VDOT and what was your past job? I have been working for VDOT for seven years. Before I came to VDOT, I was a heavy equipment hauler driving a tractor-trailer all over Northern Virginia, Maryland, and DC.
2. It’s National Work Zone Awareness Week. What’s the most important thing you can tell motorists across the DC area? Please stay off the phone and be patient with us. We are trying to make the roads safe for your travels, and yelling and blowing the horn at us will not make the process any easier or quicker. And the phones have to be put away, I cannot count the number of close calls that I have had with people on their phones. My guys and I want to go home at the end of the day just like you do. Pull over to text or talk—it might add a few extra minutes to your drive, but that could save someone’s life.
3. What’s the most important thing you do while you’re out on the highway? I make sure I can be seen on the roads. I keep my strobe lights and personal protective equipment (PPE) on at all times while out in traffic. The more that I stand out against the mundane day-to-day landscape the better I feel I will be seen. (Editor’s note: He’s 6-foot-7.)
4. How do you watch your crewmates’ backs? How do you communicate with each other on a loud highway? When I was an operator we would all make sure that one of us was watching oncoming traffic, especially if one if us had our back to traffic trying to do work and could not watch the oncoming traffic. While working around loud equipment we work in a close group—close enough to hear. One crew member will have a radio with them to be able to hear the flaggers if they need something.
5. In five words, what’s the best advice you can give to a VDOT rookie? Safety and PPE are #1. Never do something that you feel is not safe. (Editor’s note: We won’t count that last sentence.)
6. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in motorist behavior? Total lack of attention towards others on the road. I see a lot of people drive like they are the only ones on the road and when we hold them up, they get angry.
7. Favorite piece of gear? My favorite piece of gear would have to be my boots. If you don’t have a comfortable well-fitting boots, then you will not be very productive and instead be in pain all day long.
8. Favorite app? My favorite app is Golf Clash. I have to find time to play a game to just relax and wind down after work.
9. Living person you admire at VDOT? That would be Northern Virginia’s District Safety Manager, Paul Matticks. I have always admired the work he does with safety. He has a hard job and he makes it look easy. Paul has always tried to help me out the best he could when I had questions or concerns.
10. We’ll give you three items to survive three hours while stuck in Carmaggedon (remember that snowstorm and late OPM release in 2010?). What are those three items and why? (Assume you have plenty of food, water and the restroom isn’t a problem.) (1) A full tank of gas, as the car needs to stay warm and running. (2) Cell phone, to call a tow truck (if needed) and to let my family know where I am at and that I am safe. (3) All of my cold-weather gear in case I have to leave my vehicle for some
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