Every winter, MnDOT ensures Minnesotans can travel safely by plowing more than 30,000 lane miles with approximately 800 snowplows.
In a new research implementation project jointly funded by the Office of Research & Innovation and Office of Maintenance, MnDOT is pilot testing five new pieces of snowplow equipment: two slurry spreaders (one from Henke, one from Swenson), a two-way reversible plow, an underbody scraper and a true-float wing (all from Henke).
The purpose of this project is to vet new technologies for feasibility of widespread deployment—taking cost, effectiveness, ease of use and safety into account.
“Our winter maintenance team strives to be proactive and innovative,” said Tom Peters, Maintenance Research & Training Engineer, who is leading the project. “These new technologies can help us keep motorists safe and be more environmentally sustainable with our road salt use.”
Both slurry spreaders are intended to allow operators more control in directing salt, reducing salt usage and reducing corrosion on the truck. The underbody scraper is intended to be a durable tool for removing packed snow and ice from the road. The two-way reversible plow and true-float wing are intended to offer more mobility and reach while plowing.
If successful, these systems could help clear roads more quickly providing a safe and reliable travel experience for Minnesotans. Reducing salt use could be another benefit by reducing environmental impact and operation costs.
Plow drivers will test this equipment on both rural and urban roads over three winter seasons. MnDOT District 2 acquired and installed equipment last winter and will continue using this season. The two slurry spreaders will then be transferred to MnDOT Metro District to test during Winter 2021-22.
Researchers are gathering qualitative and quantitative field data. Last winter, they interviewed maintenance managers, operators and superintendents for insights on equipment installation, operation and service. This winter, they will capture equipment performance using two databases—Oracle Business Intelligence and WebMDSS—offering side-by-side comparisons with traditional slurry spreaders and material usage.
“Data-driven product evaluations like this equip MnDOT with the experience and perspectives needed to make smart investments,” said Brian Hirt one of the lead researchers from CTC & Associates.
The project started in November 2019 and is estimated to be completed in January 2023.
To request project updates or learn more, visit MnDOT’s Office of Research & Innovation.