NHLA and State Police Troop G Host Vehicle Safety Day

“We’re not here to make your lives miserable,” Sgt. Kenneth Phoenix of the NH State Police Troop G told participants at the opening of the NHLA’s Vehicle Safety Day on March 26. “We’re here to make sure you are safe, that your workers are safe, and that people you pass on the road are safe.”

More than 125 Green Industry owners and workers gathered at North Point Outdoors in Derry during morning and afternoon sessions to learn from Sgt. Phoenix and Troopers Dan Needham and Kevin Raymond about how to check vehicles every day, how to secure loads, and how to maintain large vehicles.

John Sigmund of Fox Ridge Landscaping in West Epping said he found the program helpful because “last year, some of my landscape comrades were being pulled over on a regular basis and were being detained for hours sometimes. They were being cited for violations pertaining to their trucks and trailers, and we didn’t know where to find help. This workshop did it!”

  • Sgt. Phoenix started off by listing the top 10 reasons you can be cited during a roadside inspection stop:
    • vehicle lamps and signals not operating,
    • no fire extinguisher or three reflective triangles
    • no inspection sticker
    • driver does not have a medical certificate
    • driver not wearing a seat belt
    • speeding or failing to obey traffic devices
    • package or equipment not properly secured
    • failure to perform a pre-trip vehicle inspection
    • obstructed windshield or broken mirrors
    • driving under the influence.

If you use your vehicle for commercial purposes, you must follow all State and Federal Department of Transportation rules and regulations. Every landscape and green industry motor vehicle operator in the state is subject to these rules. Every vehicle should be clearly marked with your company information and if you travel out of state you need DOT registration numbers.

  • Among other common infractions:
    • failure to have a valid driver’s license, registration and inspection stickers
    • failure to stop at an interstate weigh station if your vehicle is more than 10,000 pounds
    • overweight vehicles and loads
    • cell phone usage while driving
    • carrying unsecured gasoline cans, which are considered hazardous materials
    • amber light usage when plowing

The larger groups divided into three smaller groups and Troopers reviewed a one-ton truck vehicle with a box trailer; a truck with an open trailer with three mowers on it; a one-ton truck with a large flatbed trailer and skid steer; and a mulch-blowing truck with air brakes.

Sgt. Phoenix said a daily inspection of every vehicle is essential. Before you leave your shop check your emergency brake, trailer hitch, lights and turn signals, windshield and mirrors, wiper fluid, and tire pressure on all vehicles and trailers. To be legal the tread on your truck must be at least 4/32 and 2/32 on your trailer and the inflation of all tires must be 50% of the suggested PSI or it is considered flat, a violation.

Unsafe hauling of equipment in or on a trailer is an often-cited offense.

Gear in the bed of your vehicle must be secured, including gas cans. Even in the bed of the vehicle they need to be secured and not just wedged in with your other gear. Trailer breakaway chains need to be crossed that attach to truck and the emergency breakaway cable needs to be attached to/through the vehicle not just through the chains
Trooper First Class Dan Needham offered remarks about a large truck equipped with air brakes that had a large mulch spreading machine on it. He explained the differences in a passenger motor vehicle license versus a commercial driver license (CDL) license. You need a CDL if you drive a vehicle with a gross weight rating (GVWR) in excess of 26,000 pounds, a combination of trailer and towing unit which exceeds 26,000 pounds GVWR with the trailer in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR. Drivers in New Hampshire must have the proper class of license to match the type of vehicle they drive. (See separate news item)

Trooper Kevin Raymond demonstrated a truck and trailer with a skid steer. Trooper Raymond involved the landscapers and had them find the GVW for the truck and trailer. He covered the binding down of equipment and discussed direct contact versus indirect contact and that you need to know how much weight your binder will hold. If the unit that you are towing is over 10,000 pounds, you will need the proper rated chains and binders and secure the unit in four places.

Rules and regulations can be found in Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Handbook and the North American standard of Out-Of-Service Criteria Handbook.

Troop G offers a monthly review of regulations for commercial drivers at their headquarters in Concord. For more information or to attend a session call (603) 223-8778.

—by Mike Barwell, Interim NHLA Education Coordinator and John Sigmund, NHCLP

 

 

Phytoremediation Scaled to a Homeowner’s Property

As a landscaper, you have the opportunity to help your clients stay up-to-date with your skills and interest in making their property a welcoming habitat for birds, beneficial insects (think pollinators and beyond), and manageable wildlife. What’s another way you can do this? You may have already helped clients understand the importance of limiting fertilizers to areas where they won’t directly end up in a water source. You may have already helped clients understand the importance of designing with native plants, replacing some of the annuals and placing annuals in containers closer to a patio or entryway where they can be truly appreciated (and watered more easily.) What can be next on your list of ways to help your company stay in tuned to what is going on in the horticulture industry and the ecological landscape mind set?

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Here, an elevated pathway enhances a small park, designed by Offshoots Inc., Boston-based landscape architecture firm, with expertise in Phytoremidiation. The site is Hood Park in Charlestown, MA, where you see the Hood brick smokestack Schrafts’ former candy headquarters, and Bunker Hill CC as you approach Boston. The elevated park helps block the view of I-95, while trees and plants diffuse noise and absorb airborne participants for all the neighborhood residents and visitors.

Understanding phytoremediation may help in that communication with landscape architects or clients. Plants are used in successful ways, such as creating rain gardens, catching excessive runoff so the erosion is limited and roots in the planting area are absorbing contaminants from paved driveways, streets, or parking lots. Plants are used indoors as we have seen in the work done by NASA to research their purifying properties with indoor air quality. We think of plants such as spider plants or sansevieria as helping air quality in homes and offices – on a larger scale, trees are definitively shown to be able to help air quality and even reduce temperatures on city streets. These are all remediations on conditions caused by human activity where plants (phyto) are involved in improving the situation.

By using plants to absorb contaminants in the air, it doesn’t take much more thought as to how plants can absorb contaminants in soils. This is a technique used on large scale applications, such as brownfields sites, and is shown to be far less expensive than a crew with heavy equipment removing the contaminated soil and capping it at a hazardous waste location. In fact, it’s about 1/10th the cost! Once the plant growing cycle is complete, those workhorse plants are removed, burned, and only the remaining ash needs to be effectively and safely relocated as hazardous waste.

How does this translate to some homeowner properties? Knowing historical or previous uses of the location can offer clues to what might be compromising the soil there. Take a look at the Fact Sheet at www.epa.gov.phytoremediationresourceguide for learn more. In the phytoremediation guide, you will learn more about what this entails, what plants are recommended, and what realistic goals are with the phytoremediation techniques – as shown by long-standing research.

In New England, there are several noteworthy examples of phytoremediation techniques helping to greatly improve landscapes. The Loring Air Force Base in Maine, once it closed, became MicMac tribal property which they had hoped to use for farming. The soil was found to be contaminated with PFAS, and plants were called on for the rescue. The MicMac farming products in other locations included hemp plants, which are excellent candidates for the ways plants can absorb the PFAS contaminants. Hemp grows quickly, has deep, thick root structures, and can grow successfully in an array of light and water conditions. While one cycle of hemp plant growth and absorption of PFAS doesn’t remove all the contaminants, it’s a meaningful start. Since hemp grows quickly, a few cycles can be effective in this scaled situation.

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Storm water runoff is directed to a massed planting, serving to slow the water’s flow and capture some of the pollutants through plants extensive root systems. Photoremediation is significant in mitagating pollution entering the water system by plants working efficiently like this.

That is a downside of phytoremediation – it’s not quick like a crew with heavy equipment moving the contaminated soil, and the phytoremediation only removes contaminants in the plants’ root zones. But, this is a reasonable beginning and has many realistic uses.

Back to homeowners’ sites and situations. Drip lines around garages or sheds with runoff from some roofing material may show compromised soils. Using plants to absorb those from the soil (ensure this area would not be used for vegetables or edibles) could be a way to improve the location for years to come. Various grasses can be used for these type of areas, to help to also detoxify places where pesticide use may have been prevalent or herbicides may have been used previously. Poplar trees, while not usually thought of as landscape design trees, should be given more thought. They grow quickly, and in addition to the ways their intensive root systems can absorb contaminants, they offer great habitat for many types of birds with their branching structure and early leaf out.

Check out the material available on phytoremediation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.gov), and from sources available in the Ecological Landscape Alliance’s article archived by Kate Kennan, “Pollutant Purging Plants.” Plants in our yards and gardens offer beauty, habitat, and work in so many more ways to our advantage. Consider all these aspects of your designs and suggestions, as you include discussions about native plants and pollinators, include ideas about plants’ uses to improve soil, create sound barriers, and clean up the air all at once.

—by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

Horticultural Enhanced Learning Experience (HELP)

HELP is finally here! What is it? The Horticultural Enhanced Learning Experience is an innovative program to find and hire new employees, and it’s now available for NHLA members. HELP is a cooperative education experience, commonly known as a “co-op,” which may provide academic credit for structured job experience. A co-op is a combination of classroom-based education with practical work experience. Through the HELP program, NHLA members can hire Career and Technical Education (CTE) students, 16 years of age or older, who are enrolled in various CTE programs throughout the state. The goal of this program is to bring young students into the Green Industry and also become the next generation of NHLA Members.

This program provides students with paid experiences, in the real world. Our hope is that this program will provide a new generation of landscapers and a much-needed work force. As an intern, the student must complete certain steps in the program. These steps are known as Educational Learning Objectives or ELOs.

These evaluation forms are simple to use and are based on your student/employee observations. Upon completion of the experience, the school will use the forms to determine high school credits. Students will also receive micro credentials from NHLA in one or more of the following areas: landscape construction, maintenance, fine gardening, landscape architecture, landscape lighting, irrigation and arboriculture.

In order to participate in the HELP program, you must be an NHLA member and registered with the NH Department of Labor. Find out all you need to know to participate on our dedicated HELP Program page.