Research Projects | In Progress Projects

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18-01: Defensive Driving for Snowplow Operators

Problem

Each winter, snowplows are struck by other vehicles, costing agencies money in repair and replacement costs and effecting traveler safety due to lost plowing time. Rear-end collisions and crashes during turning movements are two common types of crashes. Although snowplow operators are rarely at fault in these crashes, training operators on defensive driving practices—as well as reviewing general safe driving practices—may help reduce the likelihood of collisions caused by other drivers.

Objective

The goal of this project is to examine key causes of collisions involving snowplows and other vehicles, identify defensive driving strategies that snowplow operators can use to reduce the likelihood of being struck by other drivers.

Expected Results

Clear Roads is looking to develop PPT-based training modules on safe driving and defensive driving for snowplow operators. A video, which will demonstrate defensive driving scenarios, will also be created to accompany the training modules.

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18-05: Alternative Methods for Deicing

Problem

The public’s increasing demands for higher levels of service and ice-free conditions are requiring agencies to apply greater amounts of chloride-based materials, which increases material, equipment and labor costs. State and local units of government are continually assessing the need to balance LOS goals with winter maintenance costs and the negative impacts winter maintenance materials can have on the environment.

Objective

The goal of this project is to help state DOTs and local transportation agencies better understand the performance, cost and environmental impacts of alternative deicing materials, and the application methods currently used in the field, and to compare the performance and impacts of alternative winter maintenance materials with chloride-based materials.

Expected Results

Clear Roads is seeking case studies and recommendations that will lead to a future project that uses results of this project to identify and conduct the testing and analysis needed to develop research-based best practices for the use of alternative deicing materials that achieve comparable snow melt and can be used in place of or to supplement chloride-based materials.

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17-01: Integrating Advanced Technologies into Winter Operations Decisions

Problem

There is currently a wide variety of technologies available, both mobile and stationary, with new developments being released so rapidly that state Departments of Transportation find it difficult to integrate them into the decision-making process. On an individual basis, these technologies have been studied and well described, however, Clear Roads is seeking help to determine how best to integrate them on a systems-level.

Objective

The goal of this project is to provide systems-level guidance on the many new technologies available to evaluate road conditions in an integrated blueprint.

Expected Results

Clear Roads is seeking a user-friendly Best Management Practices guide to the technologies available for winter maintenance operations; what these technologies measure; how to integrate them into a successful winter maintenance operations strategy; and recommendations on how to incorporate future technologies into the strategy.

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17-03: Aftermarket Cameras in Winter Maintenance Vehicles

Problem

Because of the harsh winter maintenance environment and limitations of driver attention, guidance is needed to apply camera technology to winter maintenance vehicles to ensure maximum benefit. Aftermarket cameras described here could be mounted inside a vehicle cab or externally on a vehicle and trained in any direction. The audience for such camera images are DOT maintenance managers who would benefit from near-real time access to the condition of the roads, vehicle hardware, and on-board chemicals.

Objective

The goal of this project is to provide guidance to transportation agencies seeking to begin using, or to expand current use of, aftermarket cameras installed on winter maintenance vehicles.

Expected Results

The primary aim of added imaging capability is to assist with operational decisions and increase situational awareness. Clear Roads is seeking guidance in the form of a synthesis of current practices and existing data and test results as well as a compilation of lessons learned, best practices, considerations and recommendations.

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17-02: Standard Specifications for Plow Blades with Carbide Inserts

Problem

Carbide inserts provide a life-expectancy 10 to 20 times longer than traditional steel blades. This extended longevity has proven to save time and resources for winter maintenance agencies around the country. Unfortunately, there are no common procurement specifications, and agencies use a wide variety of requirements.

Still, many agencies do have experience using standards developed for the use of plow blades with carbide inserts. This project will gather information from these users and carbide insert manufacturers/distributors/vendors to compile a set of standard specifications which may be used and shared among Clear Roads members and others.

Objective

The goal of this project is to develop a set of standard specifications that can be used by agencies across the country to specify carbide-insert plow blades. State DOTs currently specify a variety of carbide-insert blades, and having a common specifications used by many of the 36 Clear Roads states would simplify and streamline the procurement process for state DOTs and vendors. The buying power connected to a widely accepted specifications would be greater, and procurement coalitions could potentially use the standard specifications for bidding. In addition, if more agencies specified the same product, vendors could reduce their costs and pass those savings on to state DOTs. The standard specifications would provide a starting point for agencies that want to develop their own specifications. Counties and cities would also be able to take advantage of the specifications.

Expected Results

A set of common standard specification, including but not limited to the following:

  • Carbide inserts, geometry, and dimensions
  • Blade materials, assembly details, and dimensions
  • Plow blade configuration (front, underbody, or tow blade) and blade dimensions (length and height)
  • Quality assurance inspections and accept/reject procedures
  • Details of procedures to accept/reject inserts

Specifications will include text and AutoCAD details of insert dimensions, insert material, blade dimensions, and mounting details, including: bolt pattern and inside measurements, amount of insert inside a blade, and the blade/insert mounting configuration.

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13-05: Developing Test Bed Software to Qualify Plug and Play Technology

Background

Clear Roads has been leading a “Plug and Play” initiative to specify a universal bi-directional communications protocol for in-cab electronics, regardless of the manufacturer or service provider. Establishment of this protocol will mutually benefit Clear Roads member states and their vendors by standardizing how critical operational data are shared on modern snow and ice vehicles, namely between compatible Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) devices and anti-icing/deicing joystick and spreader controller systems.

Objective

The goal of this project is to develop a software suite that will be used to validate and certify candidate spreader controllers and AVL equipment for compliance with the current Clear Roads Universal In-Cab Performance Specification and Communications Protocol.

Expected Results

Clear Roads members will be provided with a software suite composed of the following three components:

  1. The SQL Database. Stores test parameters and vendor/equipment information.
  2. The Web Portal. Web application used by both vendors to initiate and complete the certification process, and Clear Roads members to administer and view lists of compliant equipment and test results.
  3. The Device Test Application. A MS Windows Application that performs the actual tests on the device, provides feedback to the user, and communicates results to the SQL Database via the Web Portal on completion of the test. The Device Test Application installation package will be downloaded from the web portal by the vendors after the minimum required information as specified in the current Protocol Document has been entered.

CLEAR ROADS TEST BED PORTAL

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16-05: Weather Event Reconstruction and Analysis Tool

Problem

After a storm, transportation agencies need to conduct after-action studies and prepare after-action reports. To do this, data from numerous sources needs to be accessed, collected, and analyzed. These data may be difficult to access and use for a number of reasons. They may not be easy to find, or it may be difficult to parse readily available data. Some kinds of data may also be difficult to export, particularly video of radar or forecast maps.

Objective

The goal of this project is to allow transportation agencies to more quickly and easily reconstruct winter weather events, with a focus on drawing from data sources that cover the entire United States or large regions.

Expected Results

This project should identify easily usable data sources and develop a user-friendly data retrieval interface. The project outcome should let agencies spend much less time finding and preparing data and allow them move quickly to analysis and follow up. This will help agencies better understand the development and outcomes of such events, react appropriately to such events in the short and long term, and refine future maintenance decision-making.

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16-03: Standards and Guidance for Using Mobile Sensor Technology to Assess Winter Road Conditions

Problem

Today, data collected by vehicle-mounted sensors are useful but limited. For a given parameter (for example, grip, road condition, water film height, etc.), sensors from different manufacturers may provide disparate values under the same conditions, making the information hard to interpret across manufacturers.

Moreover, even when a given manufacturer’s measurement scales are well understood, the resulting set of measured values for an array of parameters (road condition, grip, road temperature, dew point temperature, water film height and others) are not easily translated into unambiguous guidance: what are the road conditions, how can they be characterized in terms of a performance measure, and what operational steps should a maintenance agency take?

Objective

Through rigorous testing of sensor equipment, development of standardized scales, and creation of guidance for using an array of measurements in concert for decision-making, Clear Roads will make better use of road sensor data than is now currently available.

Expected Results

The guidance developed from this project will help in multiple aspects of winter maintenance—in the short-term for responding to a winter storm in real time, and in the long-term in making policy and planning decisions based on performance trends. It will also help practitioners avoid guesswork by providing guidance based on vetted equipment and reliable numerical standards.

The Final Webinar took place on April 11, 2019.

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15-01: Synthesis of Material Application Methodologies for Winter Operations

Problem

Transportation agencies have been managing their salt and liquid anti-icing applications based on the results of multiple testing efforts over the years. These agencies have gained significant practical experience in the use of chloride-based liquids for winter maintenance since the earlier guidelines were published, and have developed locally-based approaches for their use alone or with other winter materials.

However, discussions at recent National Winter Maintenance Peer Exchanges have repeatedly identified the need to update the existing guidelines for material application rates as a function of road weather scenarios in the field environment.

Objective

The goal of this project is to create a synthesis of best management practices for application rates, material application methodologies and material usage, including chloride brines applied directly or as additives to abrasives and rock salts.

Expected Results

A key deliverable of this project will be a handbook that is succinct, decisive in its instructions and recommendations, and professionally created. This handbook will provide winter maintenance professionals with the ability to access the needed information with ease and will be essential in driving the successful implementation of this project’s findings.

The Final Webinar took place on February 11, 2019.

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12-06: Plug-and-Play Initiative

Problem

Sensors and other devices used on DOT vehicles are often provided by different vendors, each with their own proprietary communication protocols and data formats. It is costly and time-intensive to integrate the different systems into one data stream. The adoption of a standard protocol and specification would simplify the process of adding new components and reduce the overall costs of developing and maintaining a mobile data platform.

Objective

The goal is to engage the vendor community to develop a protocol that would support a “plug and play” approach to integrating electronic devices and sensors on plow trucks.

Approach

Working with interested stakeholders, Clear Roads engaged in a collaborative effort to develop a communications protocol that will allow plug-and-play connectivity among vendors who follow the protocol. Establishment of this protocol will mutually benefit Clear Roads member states and their vendors by standardizing how critical operational data is shared on modern snow and ice vehicles, namely between compatible Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) devices and anti-icing/deicing Joystick and Spreader Controller systems.

To learn more, please see the Webinar below.

Expected Results

A standard protocol that each state can specify in procurement to facilitate a plug-and-play approach to sharing operational data from electronic devices on modern winter maintenance vehicles.

Public Comments on the Draft Protocol

In February 2014, Clear Roads invited public input on the draft specification for a standard communications protocol. Clear Roads revised the protocol and again invited all interested stakeholders in the winter maintenance community and related vendor organizations to provide comments and feedback in September 2014. The protocol has been updated based on the comments received. The comments received and Clear Roads’ formal responses are available here.

The latest draft Clear Roads Universal In-Cab Performance Specifications and Communications Protocol is available here.

Timeline

So far…

  • A collaborative group of Clear Roads members and spreader and AVL vendors have developed a draft protocol (2011-2014).
  • It was posted for public comment in February 2014 and again in September 2014.

Next steps…

  • Clear Roads will complete the Test Bed Software project, which will allow testing of devices to ensure compliance with the developed protocol (spring 2019).
  • Testing and validation will take place in late spring 2019. Revisions will be made based on the testing.
  • The protocol should be final by the 2019-2020 season. Clear Roads will host a free web-based “test bed” so that vendors can validate that they are compliant with the protocol.
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