SEASIDE PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Winter is just around the corner, and even though we still have some time before the snow begins to fall, the New Jersey Department of Transportation is already getting ready for its busiest season.

The DOT prepares for winter year-round, but sets aside one day to really test crews’ readiness – and mix in a little fun.

CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis got an exclusive look as hundreds of DOT employees took over the parking lot at Island Beach State Par for the annual event called Winter Road-eo.

“Mother Nature is unpredictable, so we prepare for the worst and we hope for the best,” DOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said.

The working road warriors took part in a series of competitions to test their timing and accuracy on required tasks during a snow event.

“Better to do it now and work the kinks out, rather than the first snowstorm where we’d be fumbling all over each other,” said Assistant Commissioner Andrew Tunnard.

Crews were timed putting a blade on a snowplow, using wood for safety. Other events included a truck inspection and repairing a traffic light, which is a year-round task.

But it wasn’t all fun and games.

“We consider ourselves New Jersey’s first first responders, because if the roads aren’t open, then fire department, police, ambulance – they can’t get to where they need to go,” Tunnard said. “So we take our job very seriously.”

The DOT has more than 13,000 lane-miles of roads, including ramps and shoulders, to keep passable at all times in winter weather. During a statewide weather event, there can be more than 2,000 pieces of snow-fighting equipment operating.

“It gets dangerous out there with the traffic,” said highway operation technician Dan Stevens.

So the drivers get revved up for the season by riding through a course that mimics the roads.

DeAngelis even got a chance to get behind the wheel of a big rig. Check it out in the video above.

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