The Otter Tail County highway maintenance crew had a problem: when installing chip-seal markers, county workers spent time getting on and off the tailgate of the truck, walking down the road and bending over to place each marker. The markers show the center line until the road is striped.

County staff needed a more efficient installation tool that allowed one person to drive the truck while another person installed the chip-seal markers without getting off the tailgate, according to an Otter Tail County news release. The drive for efficiency lead to the creation a chip-seal marker installation tool.

This same tool received recognition from the Minnesota Local Technical Assistance Program as the 2021 runner-up for the Minnesota Build a Better Mousetrap competition. The competition “highlights innovative solutions to everyday problems and issues that local and tribal transportation workers encounter,” according to their website.

“We are proud of the maintenance crew for their continual innovations to problem solve,” said Cristi Field, maintenance supervisor. “The chip-seal marker will increase our efficiency at a very low cost.”

The Otter Tail County Highway Department received an innovation award for their creation of a chip-seal marker installation tool in 2021.
Submitted photo
The Otter Tail County Highway Department received an innovation award for their creation of a chip-seal marker installation tool in 2021. Submitted photo

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According to assistant maintenance supervisor Stephen Goerdt, the tool took about one hour to fabricate and cost less than $20 in materials. Chip-seal markers will now be installed with the assistance of vehicles. The solution will double the speed of the installation with the same number of workers.

The Otter Tail County Highway Department also earned this award in 2018. The department staff was awarded first place for their Otter Plow Cushion, "a device that absorbs the shock of rough roads on the plow assembly and lift chains, improving ride quality and reducing the failure of the plow lift chains and parts,” as stated in the release.

“I am very proud of our Highway Maintenance folks,” said Charles Grotte, County Engineer. “They keep looking for ways to improve how their work gets done and following through.”