“Pokey picker upper” makes cleaning up highway shoulders easier, reduces waste

Innovation creates savings in tire repair for ADOT maintenance vehicles

PHOENIX – As the Arizona Department of Transportation fosters an environment of continuous improvement and waste reduction, one idea has created savings in trips to equipment shops and the cost of tire repairs: the pokey picker upper.

What is a “pokey picker upper?” Simply put, it’s a magnet that is attached to the front of an ADOT maintenance truck that hovers just above the ground collecting metal pieces and shards along the highway shoulders.

“When we were doing regular spot litter removal, the number of flat tires we were getting was so high, we needed to come up with a way to reduce that waste,” said Timothy Mitchell, highway operations supervisor for ADOT’s Quartzsite Maintenance Unit. 

Mitchell, the inventor of the pokey picker upper, brainstormed an idea to use a magnet to grab the metal before it could puncture any tires. A 3-foot bar was affixed to the front of the truck and the magnetic bar hung from that, hovering just above the ground. The device is also interchangeable so it is easily moved to either the passenger or driver side of the vehicle, depending on where it is needed.  

Crews began using the new tool a year ago to great effect. Since then their welder has improved upon the prototype. While the maintenance crew is still compiling data for the number of hours and costs related to the flat tires, they have noted that trips to the shop have dropped considerably. Before they were trekking to the shop two to four times a week for repairs, and now it's only about two to three times a month, which is a substantial improvement.

This device is an example of how ADOT employees are committed to solving problems and eliminating wasteful processes by using Governor Doug Ducey's Arizona Management System. For more information, visit ams.az.gov.