It has been a familiar sight lately: a row of snowplows and sand trucks with motors running, all lined up to go to work, parked by the roadside ready to roll into action at the first sign of snow or freezing rain. I don’t think I’m alone in hoping that we will soon see the last of them for this season.

These are massively heavy vehicles, loaded down with sand, fuel, and specialty blades and equipment. Their operation is controlled through a staggering maze of dials and knobs and information sensors arrayed around the operator like the controls of a jet plane. Lumbering along the highways at 15 or 20 miles per hour, they are prepared to battle back the impact of our winter storms. Lined up, ready to rumble down the highways or through the neighborhoods, they are an impressive sight.

As I drove by a line of them earlier this week, I suddenly realized that inside those 25-ton wonders were skilled operators who had learned what it meant to be patient and wait. Skilled in operating a large and powerful machine, they must be ready to move at a moment’s notice—and the operation of the vehicle requires their full concentration. How do they keep focused while waiting for the right moment to pull out onto the roads? What do they do to keep their energy up, both while waiting and working? How do they stay mentally alert and engaged with road situations that are constantly shifting? While the weather is notoriously fickle and defies the forecasts, the behavior of the drivers in the cars around them is even more unpredictable.

The people who operate the snow removal equipment in our county and throughout our region certainly have my respect and my admiration. We are grateful for what they do for our communities.

Like healthcare workers, they have accepted responsibility for difficult and demanding tasks. They perform them with great skill, patience, and personal investment. Like healthcare institutions, these operators have devised efficient systems to provide impactful service for all of our communities. We understand the level of personal focus and competence they must bring to be effective, whether working or waiting. We appreciate the work they do, and are proud to serve our communities along side them.

And we hope they put those trucks away soon.