Working in construction along a roadway requires heightened awareness, extra safety precautions and fortitude. Across the country, our employees build transmission and distribution lines, excavate, install and repair traffic signals and more – right next to and above active streets and highways.

The safety of our employees is more important than anything else, and drivers who pay attention and slow down in construction zones help us ensure our employees go home safely every day. During this National Work Zone Awareness Week, here’s a story from one of our employees whose forethought likely saved the lives of his co-workers.

In March 2021, General Foreman Luke Drury was one of 16 Capital Electric Line Builders employees working an overnight outage in Kansas City, Missouri. The project involved working on a distribution line over a four-lane trafficway. At 10:30 p.m., the crew met in the parking lot of a nearby gas station and held a tailboard meeting, discussing the project, individual assignments and safety hazards.

“One of the main things we talked about was traffic control and protecting ourselves,” he said. “It was dark, there was a chance of rain and we were starting work at the crest of a hill.”

Drury instructed his foreman to park his pickup truck ahead of the work zone as what they call a blocker truck. Its purpose is to protect the crew in the event a vehicle enters the construction zone. Ahead of the truck, which had flashing lights, were orange cones and signs notifying drivers of the upcoming lane closure. The truck’s flashing lights were visible from about two miles away.

Commercial outages started at 11 p.m., and the crews got to work. Around 11:35 p.m., the foreman called Luke. A pickup had run into the blocker truck. The foreman had already called 911.

truck that was hit from behindThe driver had driven through the cones, past the signs and hit Capital Electric’s pickup, pushing it up onto the curb. The driver’s pickup had flipped over and was lying on its roof in the middle of the road. There were no rubber marks indicating the driver had hit the brakes.

Emergency personnel arrived quickly on the scene. While the driver had gotten out of the vehicle on his own, a woman in the passenger seat had to be cut out of the vehicle. Neither was injured. The driver was arrested for impaired driving.

Luke said in his 25 years in the line construction industry, he’s never seen anything like this. His instruction to park that truck atop the hill likely saved lives.

“I wanted something between the roadway and the job site to protect our people,” he said. “We can get by without a pickup.”