Townsend operates one of the largest fleets of vehicles in the utility industry. Our equipment operators are driving vehicles that can be 10 tons and larger, so they're responsible for ensuring their trucks follow all the laws and regulations that come with driving vehicles of that size.

Recently, we got word that one of our trucks in the Midwest passed a complete DOT inspection.

Richie Merritt (middle right) and Townsend-DOT-Insepctions-Photo-For-newsletter.jpgShane Morris (far right) have made sure that their truck passed all the necessary inspection checks, and was given a clean bill of health. As part of our DOT inspection policy, when anyone gets stopped and has no citations on their vehicle, they get a $300 gift card, as does their direct general foreman. Shane and Richie's is the first complete pass we've had in this region in a while.

So what goes into getting a clean inspection? We have a video on YouTube (embedded below), which shows what you should be looking for on every pre-trip inspection every morning. We've also summarized the video below, but to get the most complete information, we recommend you watch the video itself. (It's also at the end of this post.)

It demonstrates the essential inspection checks you need to perform every day before it's released for work, in order to have a fully-compliant vehicle that will pass any DOT inspection. This has been especially important lately, as some of our areas of operation have seen higher-than-normal DOT inspections, with a high percentage of failures and fines.

Every vehicle requires a 360 degree walk around, starting with the front.
  • Look for puddles that would indicate leaks.
  • Check whether the truck is leaning to one side, which could be a suspension problem, low tire pressure, or a shifted load.
  • Make sure the headlights and running lights on top of the truck are operational, and not loose or broken.
  • Check to ensure the headache rack and bumper and cone holder are not loose.
  • Next, open the hood and make sure all components that use fluids — coolant, power steering, windshield wiper — are attached, hoses are securely mounted, and that reservoirs are full.
  • Make sure other engine components are securely fastened, wires are secured, and belts are not frayed.
  • Check the wheels and make sure everything is securely fastened.

When you check the sides of the vehicle, check the following:
  • Anything under five feet in length or 1100 pounds must have at least one tie down.
  • Mirrors and brackets should be tight.
  • Doors must open and close properly.
  • Steps must be securely mounted by their bolts.
  • The fuel tank must be securely mounted, and its various parts — cap, safety chain, seal, and steps — are tightened down.
  • Make sure the work boxes are securely latched.
  • Make sure the outriggers and outrigger pads are in the correct position.

At the rear of the truck, check these items:
  • The tailgate is securely mounted to its hinges and its bolts are not loose or missing.
  • The tailgate chain should be secured by its chain.
  • Check all tail lights, brake lights, reflectors, and license plate lights that they're working and not broken.
  • The work boxes should latched and locked.
  • Check the pintle hitch and pig tail interface to make sure they're securely mounted and not damaged.

Move under the vehicle for a quick check.
  • Make sure the frame is not bent or twisted and everything is securely mounted.
  • Check that the drive shaft is not bent and is securely mounted.
  • Make sure the exhaust system is properly mounted, is not dented, and does not have any leaks.

Finally, check the inside of the vehicle.
  • Make sure fire emergency equipment is on board.
  • Check that the fire extinguisher is fully charged and properly rated.
  • Make sure you have all three emergency triangles in their box.
  • Make sure your six replacement fuses are onboard.
  • Make sure you have all the vehicle documents, including the vehicle's Cab Card, insurance card, the DOT yearly inspection report, and pre-trip and post-trip book.
  • Always have your driver's license and your DOT physical cards on you.
  • Make sure the seat belts properly latch and they are not cut or frayed.

Start the engine and check for a Safe Start. Make sure the parking brake is set, transmission in neutral, and clutch is depressed. After you start, look for the following:
  • The ABS and Check Engine lights go on and then off.
  • Make sure the oil gauge, temperature gauge, ammeter, and volt meter are working properly and rising to a safe level.
  • Grab the steering wheel and tug back and forth to see if there is any play.
  • Make sure the mirrors clean and adjusted to your sight requirements. Make sure they're properly secured and not cracked.
  • Check the windshield for cracks and looseness.
  • Check the wipers for proper movement and make sure the fluid is working.
  • Check the heater and AC, even in the "off" season.
  • Make sure the dashboard lights work properly.
  • Ask a crew member to make sure all the exterior lights, turn signals, flashers, low beams and high beams, and brake lights work properly.
  • Check the brake for leaks by pressing the pedal and looking for a big drop on the brake air pressure gauge.
  • Perform other brake checks as described in the video.
You are now finished, and have completed the pre-trip vehicle inspection. If you can complete this check without finding any problems, you will pass any surprise DOT inspections that may come up as you drive from one job site to the next. Be sure to fill out the pre-trip and post-trip inspection reports before you leave in the morning and when you're finished at the end of the day.

A thorough pre-trip inspection should take you 10 – 20 minutes, and it may seem like we're being overly concerned. However, there are too many ways something could break and cause a serious accident and injury or death, whether it's to one of our crew members or to a member of the public. By performing pre-trip checks, we can identify problems before they become dangerous, and we can avoid needless safety violations and fines as well.

Posted: 7/27/2018 1:00:00 PM by Townsend Corporation

While we hope it never happens, there may be a time where you have to help an injured coworker and provide first aid for any kind of blood-producing wound. So it's important to know about bloodborne pathogens (BBPs) and how to reduce the risks of contamination.

Bloodborne pathogens are diseases transmitted through contact with human blood or other bodily fluids. (Note: This does not include sweat. You can't get a bloodborne disease from someone else's sweat.)

These diseases include HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis A, B, and C, and tuberculosis (TB). The CDC also includes staph and strep infections, gastroenteritis-salmonella, and shigella, pneumonia, syphilis, malaria, measles, chicken pox, herpes, urinary tract infections, and blood infections.

600px-Biohazard_symbol_(red).jpgBasically, if a BBP enters another person's bloodstream through an open cut or a mucosal membrane (such as getting a blood droplet in your eye or nose), they can become infected and contract the same disease.

If someone becomes injured and you're going to provide first aid, it's important that you take steps to reduce your exposure to potentially-contaminated blood. This is sometimes referred to as Universal Precautions, which means treating all human blood and fluids (except sweat) as if they were known to to be infected with BBPs. That includes wearing the proper protective equipment when giving first aid.

All of our trucks and job sites have first aid kits that contain nitrile gloves (made from allergy-free products that feel like latex), face masks, micro-shields, and safety glasses. They must be used by all first aid providers before rendering any kind of first aid.

We also provide BBP kits for disposing of all medical waste and cleaning materials. All medical waste — bandages, bandage wrappers, medical sponges, nitrile gloves, cleaning material — must be placed in the appropriate bag and given to the first responders for proper disposal. If EMTs are on the scene, they have the facilities and know-how to properly dispose of the medical waste, so make sure they take it. If you transport an injured coworker to the hospital yourself, be sure to take the disposal bag with you. Do not just dispose of it in the regular trash or leave it behind.

When cleaning up, use the materials provided or a combination of bleach and water. Never reuse cleaning materials used to clean up medical waste. Dispose of everything once it has been used or even just opened.

If you believe you were exposed to biological fluids on the job site, or you notice that you or someone else failed to follow these precautions, notify your supervisor immediately. Even if the injured person is confident that they don't have any bloodborne diseases, that doesn't mean they don't. They could have been unknowingly exposed themselves years ago without realizing it.

Of course, the best way to prevent being exposed to BBPs is to avoid being injured in the first place. Practice safety at all times, and encourage your coworkers to do the same.

If you have any questions about protecting yourself from bloodborne pathogens, please ask your foreman. Remember to wear the right equipment if you have to administer first aid, even for small cuts and scrapes. And let your supervisor know if you think you were exposed, however briefly, to possible contamination.

Photo credit: MarianSigler (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
Posted: 7/26/2018 1:00:00 PM by Townsend Corporation

Let's be honest, being a tree trimmer can be dangerous. We use power equipment to cut through wood quickly. We work in all kinds of extreme weather, both hot and cold. And we work around power lines, both intact and downed.

There are so many factors and moving parts when it comes to dealing with electrical safety in the first place, it's even more complicated when you're dealing with aerial equipment — boom trucks, scissor lifts, and tree cranes — on top of it. Now you're not only watching out for yourself, but you've got some large equipment to take manage as well as people on the ground who are depending on your extra awareness.

Tree-trimmer-high-up-in-boom-truck-Atlanta.jpgSo let's talk about the basic safety practices you need to follow when working around power lines and electrical sources.

First, you need to understand that the human body is an excellent conductor of electricity. That means any part of your body that comes into contact with an electrified object while you're touching a grounded object (like a tree or wet rope) is going to conduct electricity immediately. So, if you're holding a branch that touches a power line while you're also, say, holding on to another part of the tree, you immediately become grounded and could be seriously injured or killed.

Also, you're not any safer just because you're on the ground. Ground personnel are more at risk of shock than the person in an insulated bucket. If the lower part of the boom arm comes into contact with an electric line, the truck can become energized. Anyone who touches or is just near the truck or attached chipper is in danger of being electrocuted. If you're working on the ground, make sure you know where the boom is in relation to any power lines before you go near the truck or chipper.

We also stress these safety practices when conducting our electrical safety briefings with our crew.
  • Always know where the utility lines are in relation to you and all of your equipment, not just the aerial lifts.
  • Never work with your back to the wires or move a bucket into position without looking where you're going.
  • Maintain a safe working distance from wires.
  • Never go between an energized phase and a neutral/static line. Assume the neutral/static line is energized at the primary voltage level. (This is a direct violation of our "5 to Stay Alive" non-negotiable components of our safety program. If you violate one of those, you're subject to immediate termination.)
Finally, it's part of Townsend's safety policy that when an electrical hazard exists, only qualified line clearance tree trimmers — or line clearance tree trimmer trainees working under the direct observation of a qualified line clearance tree trimmer — are allowed to perform line clearance tree trimming. If that's not you, you can't do it. Leave it until the right personnel are available.

If you have any questions about electrical safety, please ask your foreman. Keep an eye out for your fellow crew members and alert each other when you see a potential hazard. Electrocutions can be fatal, so speak up as soon as you see a problem.
Posted: 7/20/2018 1:00:00 PM by Townsend Corporation

Neal Conder was recently recognized for his 45 years of service with Townsend Tree Service. Neal started as a Groundman in 1973, became a Top Trimmer two years later, and four years after that, he became a Foreman. He has been a General Foreman for the last 11 years. He was also attacked by an ostrich once.

Neal lives and works around the Casey County, Kentucky area. When he's not working, he loves deer and turkey hunting with his grandson, as well as fishing and gardening with his wife, Pat.

Neal-Conder-01.jpg"Pat and I have been married for 45 years, and we have one son, Joseph, and his wife, Jessica, plus two grandkids, Reana and William Joseph," said Neal. He and Pat attend the Manna Harvest Tabernacle Church in Gravel Switch, Kentucky.

Neal has also been a strong proponent of safety for his crew members. "I'm really strict on it, Townsend is strict on it," said Neal. "I try to keep my guys in line, and they're what's kept me here for 45 years."

Neal said he goes over their daily safety nuggets at their morning briefing, and if someone has a problem or issue, they bring it to each other's attention to make sure they avoid injuries or dangerous situations. "We've never had anyone hurt seriously, and hopefully we won't," said Neal.

As you might expect out in the rural areas, they've had their fair share of critter encounters — "I had a copperhead hit me on the pant leg once," said Neal — but the strangest incident was not something you expect to see in rural Kentucky.

"The worst situation we ever had was a male ostrich attacked us," said Neal. "The owner told us it weighed 300 pounds and was 8 feet tall. Their toes are like knives."

According to Neal, it came over a fence and attacked him and his crew on a driveway. "The other guy was able to run away because that thing focused its attention on me."

Neal climbed another fence, the ostrich followed, and Neal climbed up a tree. An ostrich's legs bend the opposite of a human's, and he was able to kick Neal in his arm while he was climbing.

"He hit me right on the muscle as I was climbing the fence," said Neal.

But despite the occasional creature encounter, Neal has enjoyed his time at Townsend.

"I like what I do," said Neal. "I like fixing things, fixing right-of-ways. I love trimming trees. I was a foreman for so long, nearly 35 years, and I've loved every minute of it. And I've had some good bosses. Preston Mills, Sr. was a good boss, and helped me more than anybody else. He told me years ago that I had to learn computers, so I did."

But most importantly, Neal loves the satisfaction comes from knowing he and his crews have helped others. "I like helping people get their electricity on after a storm," he said. "People thank us and that feels good. I don't like seeing anybody have to suffer."
Posted: 6/20/2018 1:00:00 PM by Townsend Corporation

Now that summer is here, it's time to be thinking about safety and avoiding head-related illnesses. Daily temperatures can easily climb above 90 degrees, and while you may feel terribly hot in high humidity areas, like the Midwest and Southeast, you can be fooled into thinking it's not so bad in areas with low humidity, like the Southwest. (It can still be dangerous.)

Basically, you're at risk of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and other heat-related illnesses if the temperature and humidity is high, if you're working in the direct sunlight, if there's little to no wind, if you're doing a lot of physical exertion, or if you don't have a high tolerance for heat. Also, certain medications can cause you to be more susceptible to heat, so be sure to check with your physician if you're on any sort of medication.

pexels-photo-848140.jpegThe best way to reduce the possibility of heat-related illnesses include drinking plenty of water (8 ounces every 15 minutes); working in the shade whenever possible; taking breaks in shaded areas or even sitting in the truck and running the AC; and wearing light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.

Also, avoid drinking alcohol, caffeinated drinks, and heavy meals. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks like tea and soda are diuretics — they make you have to urinate more than you take in, so you're more prone to dehydration. And your body has to work harder to digest heavy meals, and you may get an upset stomach.

When we talk about heat-related illnesses, you'll often hear the terms heat exhaustion and heat stroke used interchangeably, but they actually mean different things with different symptoms.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting.
  • Weakness and moist skin (not just sweaty, but clammy).
  • Mood changes, such as irritability or confusion.
  • Upset stomach or vomiting.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • Dry, hot skin with no sweating.
  • Mental confusion or losing consciousness.
  • Seizures or convulsions.

Regardless, both mean heat-related illness, and they can be prevented and treated in the same way: Get in the shade or cool area, drink plenty of cool water, and watch for serious symptoms like confusion, vomiting, or convulsions. And most importantly, if symptoms seem life threatening, call 911 immediately.

We preach safety at all times, and that includes weather-related safety. It's a good idea to have someone on your crew serve as the break-and-water monitor, reminding everyone to work in the shade when you can, drink your 8 ounces of water every 15 minutes, and to sit in the shade or a cool area during your breaks. Finally, be sure to check with your foreman to ensure you're taking the proper safety precautions and following any heat advisories based on the outside temperature.

Photo credit: Tucker (, Creative Commons 0)

Posted: 6/13/2018 1:00:00 PM by Townsend Corporation