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New TxDOT electrical certification creates barriers for manufacturers of oversized cargo

11.14.17

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) mandated all contractors bidding on state projects must extend their electrical certification and complete course work to obtain TRF450 and TRF453 certifications. As of August 2017, anyone who inspects or installs electrical systems supplying traffic signal controller cabinets or traffic signal poles on Texas roadways are required to take specified courses through the University of Texas Arlington (UTA) to receive the certificates.

According to The University of Texas at Arlington, both TRF450 and subsequent TRF453 are in place to “improve the quality of construction for electrical installation of traffic signal systems”. Examining TxDOT construction standards and the National Electric Code (NEC), the required certification courses review Texas standards and specifications for construction and maintenance of highways, streets and bridges where traffic signals and electrical installation of those signals are present.

TxDOT has cast a wide net with regards to who is required to complete these electrical certifications. While high load specialists like Kenco Bucket Trucks do in fact disconnect and remove aerial traffic signals impeding a transport’s route, they do not inspect or install the electrical systems that regulate traffic signal control cabinets or signal poles. Yet, oversized load transport companies are grouped into the new regulation.

“I don’t denounce the information TxDOT wants to convey in their TRF450 and TRF453 certification courses,” explained Kenny Mungle, President of Kenco Bucket Trucks. “However, the courses are pertinent to individuals constructing intersections and installing electric cabinets. It’s just not applicable to our company’s line of work.”

TRF-450 is a pre-requisite to obtaining the now required TRF 453 certification. TRF 450 is specific to Roadway Illumination Construction which has no relevance to the temporary removal or manipulation of traffic signals for high load movement. There is no discussion in this course regarding traffic signals, only roadway lighting.

Mungle’s comments aren’t lost on fellow bucket truck company owners who also provide aerial assistance throughout Texas. With TxDOT requiring government contractors and private companies alike to complete the TRF453 certification – as well as its prerequisite TRF-450 – owners are faced with the reality of having to shell-out thousands of dollars to certify their utility truck personnel in addition to providing six days of paid time off for their personnel to complete the courses. Just as TRF-453 has no relevance to the temporary removal or manipulation of traffic signals for high load movement, the now mandatory TRF-450 is receiving similar condemnation. In reality, there is no discussion in this course regarding traffic signals – only roadway lighting.

“We’re an extremely safety-conscious organization that completes extensive training as well as OSHA and IMSA certifications,” shared Cassie Carbajal, Kenco’s Safety Manager. “We only question the new certification standards because our jobs do not entail the installation of electrical systems.”

In fact, Kenco has already sent several employees to the TRF450 certification class and have personnel signed up and ready for the TRF453 class. Carbajal did point out that registration for both TRF-450 and TRF453 was difficult as classes are only offered once every few months. She explains that individuals who do not sign-up well in advance have to wait until the next scheduled opportunity to take the class and become certified. If the classes fill up with TxDOT employees, all other registrants are bumped.

While the certifications were created to familiarize electricians with TxDOT and the National Electrical Code (NEC) standards, they are currently creating issues for the high load transport industry. Both manufacturers and oversized carriers are challenged to locate certified bucket truck companies to assist with the movement of their over-dimensional cargo, causing them to miss deadlines and experience higher costs. With the majority of high load companies in the state not certified at this time, all of the cargo needing to be relocated won’t be transported. Essentially TRF450 and TRF453 are barriers in the way of an industry always on the move.

Note: TxDOT and The University of Texas Arlington declined the request for comment.