Road Management Journal
Road Management Journal
December 1, 1997
TranSafety, Inc.
(360) 683-6276
Fax: (360) 335-6402

Good Ideas from Winter Maintenance Workshops

(This information is reproduced with permission from "Crossroads," the newsletter of the Transportation Information Center at the University of Wisconsin--Madison. The article appeared in the Winter 1996 edition.)

. . . Here are some winter maintenance ideas.

Pre-snow planning

Planning plow routes, setting priorities, and putting plans on paper makes you more efficient. It helps elected officials answer those inevitable constituent complaints.

Elkhorn's [Wisconsin] street maintenance folks developed their plan seven years ago. They started with a simple plan from UW [University of Wisconsin]-Extension Engineering's Snow and Ice Control course. It took about a week and a half of work to modify it for Elkhorn. The plan categorizes all streets as 1) priority (plowed first and maintained throughout the storm), 2) secondary and 3) neighborhood. To address citizen complaints about waiting to get plowed out, the plan has trucks start plowing from different points, rotating from storm to storm.

Each plowing route (with drawings) is in the office computer and in the truck. This makes it easy for a substitute driver to take over a route. While some routes look bigger than others, says Michael Early, Elkhorn's Streets Foreman, they all take about the same plowing time. Road width and drifting make the difference.

The plan classifies snowstorms by type and tells what to do for each. It lists all the equipment and tells how to plow cul de sacs and remove windrows downtown. It lists dos and don'ts (like don't help push out stuck cars) and what equipment a truck must carry as required by their insurance--fire extinguishers and safety kits, for example. The plan gives everybody guidance--bosses and drivers. And the insurance company loves it, Early says.

Each year streets administrators update the plan based on their experience and present it to elected officials. In fall they hold a half-day snow school and go over the plan with everybody--including backup drivers from other departments. All regular plow drivers drive the route before the first snow.

Plowing advice

Recent Winter Maintenance Workshop participants shared many good ideas about how to plow efficiently.

Spreading and wetting sand and salt

When people see sand on the roads, they can tell that maintenance is being done, says Jim Harer of St. Croix County. He uses sand mixed with 5% to 10% salt most of the time on county roads. The spreader located at the inside corner of the truck is set to turn very slowly. Traffic action quickly kicks the sand into the travel lanes. They spread the sand more widely on hills and curves and at intersections.

Automatic controls help Stevens Point drivers spread salt and sand more economically. "We've really noticed savings in our use of salt and sand," says Howie Krieski. This is the fourth year they've used the controls on their trucks. While it took the drivers a while to get used to the new way of spreading, the better control is worth it.

Using pre-wetted salt along with the automatic spreaders makes salt use even more efficient, according to Portage County's Dale Peterson. Wet salt sticks to the ice instead of bouncing into the ditch so trucks can drive faster while applying it. Wetted salt starts to work faster, and wetting it with calcium chloride helps it work better in colder temperatures.

They wet the salt in the loader bucket while loading the truck. On the newest equipment, truck-mounted brine tanks wet the salt as it leaves the chute. Peterson likes the new brine tanks because they are easy to clean after the storm.

Keeping storm records

So, how did yesterday's plowing operation go? How many trucks were on the road? How long did it take to clear the roads? You're so busy getting the job done, it can be hard to track the details. Yet, the public is interested and reporters often ask these questions. If serious accidents occur, this information will be helpful if a lawsuit develops. The data also can help with later snow plan reviews.

In Stevens Point they fill out a simple form after each storm event. It includes beginning and ending times for the storm and for plowing salt routes and regular routes, along with current and forecast temperatures, and whether salt or sand was used. There is also room to note any special occurrences.

Winter Maintenance Ideas from Workshop Participants

(This information is reproduced with permission from "Crossroads," the newsletter of the Transportation Information Center at the University of Wisconsin--Madison. The article appeared in the Winter 1997 edition.)

Maintaining highways and streets in winter is hard work. It takes planning, innovation, training, and good management to meet the challenges of citizen expectations and tight budgets.

Fortunately, a lot of good ideas for better policies and better methods have been developed and used around Wisconsin. . . . Here's a summary of ideas gathered this year [1997]. For even more good ideas, see [the article before this one taken from the Winter 1996 "Crossroads."]

Policies and publicity

Equipment and methods

Plowing Don'ts

Don't make these common mistakes when plowing:

Watch What You Eat on Snow-Plowing Nights

Road crews often battle snow and sleet throughout the night, but usually for only a night or two. That means they are also battling sleepiness since their bodies are adjusted to the usual daytime shift. Sleepiness can be dangerous. At least 10,000 accidental deaths a year are sleep-related and 200,000 traffic accidents annually are due to driver fatigue.

Recent research on sleep deprivation shows that what you eat before and during nighttime work can affect sleepiness. Since the body slows down at night, it does not want to digest a donut, a "Big Mac," or most other fast foods. Greasy, heavy, protein foods bring on sleep according to information in The Shiftworker's Handbook.

Drivers can still enjoy eating, though. Take light, well-balanced meals and eat snacks that are compatible with slower, nighttime digestion.

([Food information] [a]dapted from Road Business, Fall 1994, University of new Hampshire T2 Center. The Shiftworker's Handbook is by Marty Klein, Ph.D., SynchroTech, Lincoln, Nebraska.)

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