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Foster, Rhode Island

Why does the road crew for the Town of Foster, RI have a rig that looks like it should be stuck on the back of a tractor hanging from the front of its snowplow trucks?

Several years ago, Foster had a problem keeping its dirt roads in decent shape during the summer until they tried maintaining them with something called a Front Runner. This device is actually an attachment that fits onto the front of the towns trucks in place of the snowplow. It is pushed ahead of the truck and provides a very effective means of grading the roads while getting rid of ruts and potholes.

When Foster found itself hit with early and late winter snowstorms, the kind that come either before the ground has frozen, or even worse, after it has turned to springtime mud, highway foreman Walter May decided to try the Front Runner as an alternate to conventional plows (which dig up the soft roads). The results were so favorable that Walter now has a second Front Runner primarily for snow removal.

Walter didn't have to go far to find his Front Runners because they were manufactured in nearby Pawtucket, although they owe their origin to a former Rhode Islander who now resides in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Russ Lanoie designed the Front Runner several years ago to assist him in his construction business. Many years after Lanoie started building campsites in the White Mountains he came up with the idea of mounting a conventional tractor type landscape rake in front instead of behind the tractor. The device let him cleanup rocks and debris ahead of the tractor and also proved to be a very successful grading tool.

Lanoie also tried his idea on the front of his snowplow truck and discovered it worked very well for road maintenance. When Lanoie approached his brother George Lanoie who had a fabrication shop in Pawtucket, they decided to begin producing heavy duty units suitable for road maintenance and marketing them nationally.

It was not long after that a story in the Providence Journal about the condition of Foster's roads prompted the Lanoies to provide Foster with a trial unit for demonstration. Since that time, Walter May claims that he has "received far fewer complaints about the condition of the roads," which is as close to a testimonial as the public will provide that his new Front Runners has indeed helped their situation.