Road Management & Engineering Journal
Road Management & Engineering Journal
February 11, 1998
TranSafety, Inc.
(U.S. and Canada)
(360) 683-6276
Fax: (360) 335-6402

Special Bulletin #26: Snow Removal

(This article is reproduced with the permission of the South Dakota Local Technical Assistance Program (SD LTAP) at South Dakota State University. Special Bulletin #26: Snow Removal was written by Ken Skorseth and Sue Grant, with contributions from various South Dakota highway maintenance personnel.)

Hopefully South Dakota will not experience another winter like the winter of 1996-97. But even if conditions are not that severe, you should begin getting ready for the next season of snow removal now. Then you will be as ready as you can be if Mother Nature throws another curve ball.

Policy Statement

Your department needs to have a policy statement in place before the snow removal season starts. The policy statement serves to guide your personnel. It will improve understanding between your department and the public, and your department and your board or commission. The policy statement also provides a legal foundation in case your department finds itself in court.

The policy statement should be broad and general. It must reflect field practices. It should include flexibility. The following information should appear in your policy statement:

Goals and Objectives

Keep your policy statement general. And be sure you have a policy statement you can live with. Don't promise what you can't deliver. These are some things you should include.

  1. deadlines for operations (estimate how long it will take for your crews to clear all the roads after a storm)
  2. level of service (specify end results)
  3. define estimated response time,
  4. specify work hours (around the clock, 12 hours?)
  5. chemical applications rates
  6. level of equipment assignments
  7. budget statement (what will your snow budget be based on) Suggestion: "emphasize financial constraints faced by your department"

Procedure Manual

Your department's procedure manual should be more specific. It should include the following:

  1. Summary of the policy statement
  2. Calendar of events (When will your plows, wings, and sanders be mounted and ready?)
  3. Equipment needs and materials needs including who is to be responsible
  4. Priorities (where will you be plowing first)
  5. Area maps and service maps
  6. Interagency agreements (who is responsible)
  7. Weather forecasting and alerting procedures (how will this information be spread?)
  8. Contracting arrangements
  9. Disaster planning (the public has to know that you can't respond to every storm.)
  10. Schedule of personnel training (Get people ready, calibrate equipment, teach people how to run the equipment)
  11. Teach people how to plow. Use the diagrams included in this Special Bulletin to train your people how to wing.

Help Protect Yourself

There are a number of other things you might consider putting into your procedures manual. Having these things written down helps you to get organized. It can also help protect your department in case of litigation.

  1. Review reporting procedures
  2. Calendar of equipment maintenance
  3. Public relations activities (let the public know what to expect)
  4. Parking enforcement
  5. Storm procedures (a list of exactly what will happen)
  6. Who reports when? (let your personnel know what to expect)
  7. Overtime policy
  8. Clean up after emergencies (set priorities)
  9. Critique after ever[y] storm (review problems, failures, and successes)

Risk Management Techniques

In case of liability problems your department should have the following records in written form:

Keeping these records can help you avoid future problems. Remember, planning is the most important thing. It is worth the extra time and effort.

Things To Do Before the Snow Season Starts

Supervisors should meet and discuss budget and snow policies. How many hours of plowing will the budget cover? Who will be in charge of checking the conditions and calling for the snow plows when needed? When using the contract snow removal, be sure someone is in charge of making the contractor aware of who will be calling him. If farmers are to be paid for the use of blowers, set a firm policy.

Check with schools for bus routes and mail carriers for their routes. Establish a snow route, mark it on a map and give a copy to the operators and/or the contractor.

Travel the snow route and check for things that may cause drifts (round bales along fence line, farm machinery left in a ditch or edge of field, small trees and brush near the right of way)[.] Ask the landowners to cooperate and remove these obstacles.

Let the public know. A letter explaining budget restraints, need for cooperation and snow policies can save you time in the long run. You should also use news releases, radio announcements, and newspaper articles to help get your message out the public.

Correct Methods For Winging

Ken Skorseth has put together the following photos and diagrams to help you teach equipment operators correct winging techniques. Advice was sought from several highway superintendents and operators before putting these recommendations together.

Note: These recommendations are primarily for rural conditions across South Dakota.

Photo 1
This is a good winging technique in light snow conditions. The operator is casting the snow into the ditch with the heel (outer end) of the wing set to leave no ridge to catch snow during later storms.

Photo 2
This photo also shows a good winging technique. One South Dakota county looked much like this after the community had received over 50 inches of snow. Once the ditch filled with snow, succeeding storms simply blew the snow across the road leaving it essentially bare in open areas.

Photo 3
Here the operator is demonstrating a poor winging technique. While it may appear that more snow is being cleared from the road shoulder than the above photos, the ridge that is left behind is a detriment. It will simply catch drifting snow in future storms and leave a greater depth of snow to be moved.

Photo 4
When snow becomes deeper on the road and along the roadside, it is wise to move the heel up and leave a nice taper (or slope) on the snow bank. This will often allow the wind to sweep across the bank and deposit very little snow.

Photo 5
This operator is demonstrating a poor winging technique here. Trying to push snow back in this manner requires more horsepower and is much harder on the equipment. But a greater problem is leaving a relatively straight snow bank where wind blown snow will catch in future storms.

Photo 6
As snow becomes deeper this is a good technique to use. After cleaning the road to the shoulder line, raise both the heel and toe of the wing and "bench" the snow further back from the road. This does not always leave the snow bank without a ridge, but lowers the overall height of the snow bank.

---by Ken Skorseth, Field Operations Manager; and Sue Grant, Information Specialist; with contributions from Dan Hook, Marshall County Highway Superintendent; Howard Lenius, Foreman/Heavy Equipment Operator for the Marshall County Highway Department; Leonard Faiman, Maintenance Coordinator for SDDOT's [South Dakota Department of Transportation's] Custer Area; South Dakota Townships Association meeting; and the video tape Managing Snow and Ice Control Operations.

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