Columbia Road-E-O puts landfill equipment operators to the test

Saturday, April 26, 2014 | 5:48 p.m. CDT; updated 6:59 p.m. CDT, Saturday, April 26, 2014
The Landfill Equipment and Collection Trucks Road-E-O took place at the City of Columbia Sanitary Landfill on Saturday. The competition tested participants' driving skills in bulldozers, wheel loaders and roll-off trucks. It was the inaugural Road-E-O for the Missouri chapter of the Solid Waste Association of North America.

COLUMBIA — Greg Bottoms stepped inside a yellow Caterpillar bulldozer, started it up and revved the engine.

He weaved his way in and out of blue barrel checkpoints and wobbled the machine across a football-field-sized patch of dry land in the middle of a landfill on the northeast side of the city.

Bottoms, 33, of St. Charles, won the landfill equipment "Road-E-O" on Saturday at the City of Columbia Sanitary Landfill. The competition was sponsored by the Missouri chapter of Solid Waste Association of North America and was the first time the group has carried out the event. 

During the landfill competition, three participants started driving the bulldozer through a set of barrels with a 2-inch clearance on each side of the machine’s blade. They were challenged to back the machine up to the other side of the course through yet another set of barrels.

The competitors then had to shift from drive to reverse in order to move around a few more barrel checkpoints before having to push an oblong-shaped barrel with their blade through another. They then had to complete a loop around a barrel and back their bulldozer up through the finish line.

During its first run of the day, the bulldozer controlled by Bottoms crawled across the ground past a pair of blue barrels, then went into reverse and backed up through another set on the other side of the course.

But as he moved through a few more pairs, Bottoms, who has 12 years of experience driving landfill equipment, realized that he had made a mistake.

Although he had cleared the first few sets of barrels, he didn’t follow the course's design and had driven his bulldozer through the wrong set. He was required to complete the part he did incorrectly, which added several minutes to his trial.

A crowd with fewer than 10 people lightly clapped as he parked the large machine at the finish line.

"It was just a lack of following directions," Bottoms said after he stepped out of the bulldozer. "If I had gone second or third in the order, I would have locked this up."

However, time was the tiebreaker, meaning if participants cleared the same amount of barrels, the fastest time determined the winner.

Although his time suffered as a result of his error, Bottoms won the competition by clearing every obstacle without touching a single one, while the two other drivers made contact with the obstacles.

"It’s a good thing it didn’t come down to time," Bottoms said after receiving his prize.

Denis Callahan, 28, of Richwoods, was second in line to compete. He bolted the bulldozer from the starting line and finished with a faster time than Bottoms.

However, Callahan, who has more than 10 years of landfill equipment experience, grazed a barrel along the way, putting him in third place.

"I’m not used to going slow, because you have to go slow to clear those barrels," he said after his trial. "It was fun. That’s all that matters."

Daniel Dewitt, 30, of the Kansas City area, who has competed in four similar contests, zipped around the terrain on the bulldozer with a similar speed. However, he, too, scraped a barrel with his machine’s blade, which landed him in second place.

With Saturday's victory, Bottoms took home a $100 prize and will travel to Denver in September to compete in an international landfill rodeo competition.

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