ATSSA officially kicked off its Employee Immersion Program in June with a visit to American Signal Company in Atlanta, Georgia. The new ATSSA program is geared towards enriching staff knowledge of the roadway safety industry by visiting ATSSA member companies. The program’s goal is to provide better service to members by understanding how member companies operate, and what types of products are on the market. I was the first ATSSA staff member to experience the new program.
The immersion trip was jam packed with events over the course of three days. The first day was spent learning about American Signal Company, what they manufacture and fabricate, and most importantly, meeting the people who make it all happen. Day two allowed me to visit the Atlanta Traffic Management Center, and on day three I attended an ATSSA Georgia Chapter meeting.
American Signal Company was founded in 1990 and is a manufacturer of “portable products for a variety of informational and traffic control applications including message signs, cameras, Highway Advisory Radios, and sensors,” according to the company’s website. Innovation Council Chair, and President-elect of the ATSSA Georgia Chapter Scott Covington, gave me a full tour of the warehouse, and showed me every step in their process of manufacturing their portable message boards. Covington also showed me how the raw materials, such as large pieces of metal, LEDs, circuit boards and solar panels, eventually come together to create the various products American Signal offers.
The tour was informative, interesting and eye-opening. The most impressive aspect of American Signal was the people who work there. Everyone was friendly, and the working environment had a family dynamic that is often lost in traditional office and warehouse environments. American Signal CEO, Vandy Vanderford, continuously touted the importance of the company’s employees. Often, he told me, the staff was the only thing that truly mattered to him in regards to running his company. This mantra stuck with me, and is really prevalent throughout the company.
Day two began at the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Traffic Management Center (TMC) in southern Atlanta. This TMC is a cutting-edge facility that was built originally for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Athens, Georgia to monitor and control the influx of traffic in the region due to the sporting events. Modern renovations in recent years have turned this facility into one of the most advanced centers in the country. Project Manager for the GDOT TMC Operations contract Andy Phlegar, provided an in-depth tour of the facility. Phlegar is responsible for staffing over 40 operators, dispatchers, supervisors and trainers to provide incident management and 511 services throughout Georgia.
Cameras in the facility are focused on roadways from across the state and allow the center’s team an ability to provide assistance to those who need it. The TMC “nerve center” is broken into pods of staff who are responsible for various locations across the state. For instance, there is a pod of five staffers who monitor cameras and computers to manage literally any roadway incident in metro Atlanta that may affect traffic flow or safety.
The trip concluded on day three with an ATSSA Georgia Chapter meeting held in GDOT’s traffic management facilities near the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. ATSSA members from across Georgia gathered at the meeting to discuss hot button topics for their region. I was honored to speak to the group about all the great initiatives that ATSSA has completed in relation to emerging vehicle technologies that will ultimately change the industry forever. After my brief ATSSA update, we formed a small panel to field questions from chapter members about connected and automated vehicles and their impact on the industry. It was a great learning experience for myself, and for all members in attendance.
This three-day immersion program was well worth the time, and gave me a unique insight into who ATSSA represents. This new perspective will also allow me to better advocate for roadway safety on behalf of all ATSSA members. I look forward to my colleagues getting a similar opportunity to learn more about our industry, and the faces behind the companies we represent.