PHOENIX – With another round of winter storms approaching, the Arizona Department of Transportation’s snowplow fleet includes 25 new, high-tech vehicles ready to clear state highways of snow and ice.
These snowplows have lighter, flexible blades that ADOT’s trained drivers can adjust from inside the cab to efficiently clear highways, such as when conditions warrant a tighter curl or different angle. The new plows also provide easier handling and improved visibility.
The new Freightliner snowplow trucks, replacing older plows that are no longer part of ADOT’s fleet of nearly 200, are being used almost exclusively on wider interstate highways, including I-17 and I-40 in the Flagstaff area. While many other existing snowplows have 11-foot wide steel blades up front, the flexible blades on these plows measure 12 feet across.
ADOT purchased the snowplows, each costing $280,000 and weighing 65,000 pounds fully loaded with equipment and deicing materials, as part of a program to maintain a fleet of reliable machines that keeps the traveling public as safe as possible when winter weather strikes.
The bit, or bottom edge section of a flexible snowplow blade, includes a shock-absorbing rubber insulator that improves contact with the highway’s surface. The plow blade acts much more like a squeegee along the pavement, increasing the removal of snow and ice from lower, worn spots created by heavy traffic.
Inside the cab, several high-tech tools help snowplow operators negotiate often-challenging conditions. Joysticks control the blade’s movements. A computerized monitor provides weather data and pavement temperatures as well as information about deicing agents that are distributed from the plow’s dump truck bed. Another screen shows images from separate rear- and side-mounted cameras.
A laser light system guides drivers as they also 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.
Any snowplow operator, whether in a new or older plow, has a lot to focus on while clearing snow from highways. It’s important that other highway drivers give snowplows plenty of room to operate. Try to avoid passing a snowplow while it’s clearing snow and stay at least four vehicles lengths behind it.
The new snowplows aren’t limited to use during the winter season. With plow-related equipment removed, they provide year-round flexibility when used as dump trucks for highway maintenance work.