Snowplow trucks drive slowly – and there’s a good reason for it.
Plow trucks are operated by one person, and travel at 35 MPH or slower when plowing or salting the road. This helps ensure that salt being dispersed stays in the driving lanes and does not scatter off the road. We waste as little salt as possible, saving taxpayer money and minimizing our environmental impact.
Echelon plowing is the practice of operating snowplows side-by-side across all lanes of a multi-lane highway to clear snow from several lanes at once. Snow from the lead plow is passed to the following plows until all lanes are cleared. Echelon plowing is the safest and most efficient snow removal method for interstates and other multi-lane highways.
Note: It is extremely dangerous to pass between or around snowplows during echelon plowing operations. Plows have many blind spots and don’t maneuver easily or stop quickly.
The safest place to drive is well behind the plows where the road has been freshly cleared. You might get to your destination later than planned, but you will get there safely.
PRE-TREATING WITH SALT BRINE
Before some storms, maintenance workers pre-treat the roads with salt brine.
The brine is sprayed onto the road and dries, leaving salt on the highway. The salt activates when the first precipitation hits it, meaning we’re already fighting snow and ice before our plow trucks get on the road. The melting action of the brine helps prevent snow and ice from bonding with the pavement, avoiding hard pack that is difficult to clear.
When a storm is over and all roads are clear, our jobs are still not done. That’s when we begin pushing back snow banks from along the road to make room for snow from the next winter storm. We also use our equipment to remove snow from medians and other areas that are hard to reach with a plow truck. Drivers should expect to see plow trucks and other equipment on the roads for several days following a storm.
Don’t Crowd the Plow
Snowplows are big and have many blind spots. A plow truck loaded with salt weighs more than 10 tons. Their size and weight makes them difficult to maneuver or stop quickly.
Trucks that are actively plowing can kick up clouds of snow that reduce visibility for motorists in adjacent lanes. They can also create ridges of snow in between lanes that make changing lanes challenging.
For these reasons, motorists should never pass snowplows.
Stay well behind a plow – several car lengths! – where the road is freshly plowed. It’s the safest place to drive.
Plow operators drive a designated “beat” that can take up to two hours to complete. Shorter beats are designated for high-volume roads, such as interstates. During storms, expect to see snow on the roads.
If a storm is predicted to occur during the morning or afternoon rush hours, plan to leave early or not travel at all. Roads can quickly become congested as traffic slows for bad weather. Remember – if you are stuck in traffic, so are our plows.
Some of the most important tips for safe winter driving include:
- Never follow a snowplow too closely or attempt to pass one. Drive well behind a snowplow where the road has been freshly cleared
- Adjust speed for road conditions and schedule extra time for winter travel
- Use extra caution on bridges, as they freeze more quickly than road surfaces
- Have a cell phone handy but do not text while driving; texting while driving is dangerous and illegal, but it becomes even more dangerous during storms
- Equip your car with emergency supplies, including shovel, flares, jumper cables, rope, ice scraper, portable radio, flashlight, blankets and extra warm clothes
- Inform a responsible person of your destination, intended route, and estimated time of arrival
- Winterize your vehicle by checking windshield wipers, filling washer fluid and maintaining good tire tread
For information about how to winterize your vehicle and what to do if stranded in your vehicle, visit the New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services website at: www.dhses.ny.gov
For additional driving tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, visit: www.fema.gov
ICE AND SNOW, TAKE IT SLOW
NYSDOT experts participate in Clear Roads, a winter highway maintenance research organization comprised of 36 “snow belt” states. The group works toward developing and evaluating new technology to fight snow and ice more efficiently. Clear Roads also focuses on raising awareness about winter driving safety with their initiative “Ice and Snow, Take it Slow.”
For more information, visit www.clearroads.org
Clear your entire vehicle of snow and ice before you start driving. This includes all windows, the roof, headlights and taillights. Driving with snow on your vehicle creates a safety hazard for you by creating blind spots. It also creates a safety hazard for all other drivers, since snow blowing off vehicles can cause sudden whiteout conditions for adjacent drivers or damage their vehicles.
Do not shovel or blow snow from driveways or sidewalks onto roadways.
Shoveling or blowing the snow back into the road can create dangerous snow ridges and icy spots that make the road dangerous for drivers. It’s also against the law. Be patient as we clear the roads to make them safe for travel.
Tow plows and trained operators are strategically deployed in every region of the state, with an emphasis on areas that are typically hit the hardest by harsh winter conditions. They can be shifted around the State as needed and are part of a statewide preparedness team positioned to respond quickly and effectively to keep New Yorkers safe.
Tow plows attach as trailers to the back of the large dump trucks traditionally used as snowplows. A tow plow can be hydraulically maneuvered to swing out to the side of a truck, doubling the plowing width. Tow plows offers a greater range of motion and better operator control than standard wing plows.
A tow plow, used in combination with a 12-foot front-mounted plow, helps clear 24 feet of road at once. Two cameras assist operators and reduce blind spots. For safety, tow plows have a rear lighting package that mimics the warning lights of plow trucks.
Benefits of tow plow use include:
- Increased efficiency: by allowing one plow truck operator to clear two lanes with one pass of the truck, snow removal becomes faster and more efficient.
- Enhanced safety: removing snow from two lanes at a time provides more clear travel lanes for motorists to use.
- Environmental benefits: it takes the same amount of fuel to plow two travel lanes with a tow plow as it does to plow one travel lane with a traditional plow.
The service features a winter travel advisory system and offers access to more than 1,000 live traffic cameras. An interactive statewide roadmap provides information about construction, crashes and winter road conditions – showing which state roads are snow covered, wet, dry, or closed, as reported by our plow drivers. It’s a helpful resource for commuters and long-distance travelers alike to determine if travel is advisable before heading out on the roads.
Call 511, visit the website or download the free 511NY mobile app from iTunes or Google Play.