You've seen it before: The slow moving truck with a large flashing arrow pushing you into the next lane. The laborious progression as crews hop from the truck to retrieve the random tire tread, couch cushions, laundry basket, branches or the hapless deer who crossed too soon. It's the debris removal crew snaking through the city, keeping Missouri Department of Transportation routes safe. Now MoDOT is testing a new tool that could make that process faster, safer and more efficient.   
   MoDOT’s Kansas City district is testing a debris removal tool made by Virginia-based Gator Industries, Inc. that is so new it is one of only four in existence - the only one in use in the United States. Custom built to fit MoDOT's larger truck, this innovative machine – called the Gator Getter -- scoops up trash while the vehicle travels with traffic at a comfortable 45 to 50 mph.
   Because the Gator Getter operates in the midst of traffic, MoDOT no longer has to provide traffic control or close a lane while removing debris from the highway.  That means fewer delays for motorists and safer conditions for workers.   
   "Before we had to slow and move traffic to another lane to remove large debris," said Bill Billings, MoDOT maintenance superintendent. "This device allows us to flow alongside traffic but still get our work done. We've picked up debris right next to drivers and they didn't even notice.”
   According to Billings, the new debris removal tool delivers another very important benefit – increased safety.   The Gator Getter, which was designed with safety in mind, allows an employee to remain safely in the cab during the process instead of having to get out of the truck and pick up debris alongside rushing traffic.   
This innovative implement will also help MoDOT realize efficiencies in its workforce and fleet.  Previously, it was necessary to have four employees using a dump truck to pick up debris and two attenuators, or crash cushions mounted on the back of trucks, for safety and traffic control.  The Gator Getter easily attaches to one truck with just one operator, saving the department fuel and maintenance costs, as well as employee time.
During the testing phase, MoDOT crews are offering feedback to the company to make the product stronger and more versatile to handle the array of trash types and sizes. The next version will likely have a different style of blade and heavier body.
   MoDOT crews pick up debris year-round, which can range from general car trash to pieces of furniture. One of the most common items - tires and tread - is actually separated and turned over to Missouri Vocational Enterprises so it can be shredded and reused as tire-derived fuel for power plants.