May 26, 2019
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The Arizona Department of Transportation is adding 25 new “high-tech” snow plow trucks to its fleet of 200 units; trucks equipped with lighter, more flexible 12-foot plow blades that can be adjusted from inside the cab. The agency added that those new trucks are being used almost exclusively on wider interstate highways, including I-17 and I-40 in the Flagstaff area.

[Above photo by Arizona DOT.]

The Arizona DOT noted in a statement on Dec. 20 that the new snow plow trucks cost $280,000 each and weigh 65,000 pounds when fully loaded with equipment and deicing materials. However, the new trucks aren’t winter season-only vehicles, the agency stressed, as when their snow plow-related equipment is removed, the vehicles serve as dump trucks for highway maintenance work.

What makes these snow plow trucks “high-tech” revolves around several design features:

Photo by Arizona DOT
  • Inside the cab, joysticks allow the driver to more precisely control the blade’s movements.
  • A computerized monitor screen provides weather data and pavement temperatures as well as information about deicing agents that are distributed from the plow’s dump truck bed.
  • A separate screen displays images from rear- and side-mounted cameras.
  • A laser light system helps guide drivers as they operate a separate blade called a “wing plow,” which can extend from right side of the vehicle and increase the amount of snow cleared. The laser’s beam, which shines ahead to match where the outside edge of the wing plow will travel, lets drivers know if they need to merge away from objects such as guardrails.

The Arizona DOT also noted that the “bit” or bottom-edge section of the flexible snowplow blades on its 25 new trucks includes a shock-absorbing rubber insulator that improves contact with the highway’s surface.

That helps the plow blade act much more like a squeegee along the pavement, the agency said; increasing the removal of snow and ice from lower, worn spots on the roadway created by heavy traffic volumes.

Here’s a look the tasks undertaken by Arizona DOT snow removal teams during winter storms:

[Editor’s note: The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Official’s Winter Maintenance Technical Service Program, known as “SICOP,” serves as a winter operations resource for state DOT fleets. The program offers an array of winter operation advice via the SICOP website http://sicop.transportation.org, as well as via social media such as the Facebook group “Winter Operations” and the podcast “SICOP Talks Winter Ops” at http://sicoptalkswinterops.com.]

The Arizona DOT also offers several tips to motorists for safer vehicle operation around snow plows as well as other “winter-driving” advice at azdot.gov/KnowSnow:

Photo by Arizona DOT
  • Stay at least four vehicle lengths behind a snow plow and never pass until it pulls over to let traffic pass.
  • Never assume a snowplow operator knows you are nearby. If you can’t see the plow driver, there is a good chance the driver can’t see you.
  • Consider putting off travel during snow storm. It’s much more difficult for snowplows to do their jobs when a highway is jammed with vehicles stopped by slide-offs and crashes on the slick surface.
  • To avoid interfering with snowplows, drivers of large trucks should heed signs on steep uphill grades telling them to stay in the right lane or right lanes.
  • If approaching an oncoming snowplow, slow down and give the plow extra room.
  • Leave space when stopping behind a snowplow. The driver might need to back up.
  • Just because a plow has been through an area, don’t assume the roadway is completely clear of snow and ice.
editor@aashto.org

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