Research Projects | Completed Projects

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Integrating Advanced Technologies into Winter Operations Decisions

Problem

Advanced technologies like mobile sensor systems, enhanced maintenance decision support systems (MDSS), and connected and automated vehicles have the potential to help transportation agencies advance the state of winter maintenance operations. A wide variety of technologies are available, but new developments are released so rapidly that state DOTs often find it difficult to integrate them into their decision-making processes. On an individual basis, these technologies have been thoroughly studied and described, but Clear Roads agencies are now looking for guidance on how best to integrate them on a systems level.

Objective

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

Results

This project developed a user-friendly guide to the technologies available for winter maintenance operations. The guide outlines what these technologies measure, describes how to integrate them into a successful winter maintenance operations strategy, and provides recommendations on how to incorporate future technologies into the strategy.

The Final Webinar took place on December 8, 2020.

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Understanding the Chemical and Mechanical Performance of Snow and Ice Control Agents on Porous or Permeable Pavements

Problem

Winter maintenance field personnel have reported several issues related to pavement performance when applying snow and ice control agents on porous or permeable asphalt pavement surfaces.

These pavement surfaces appear to refreeze more quickly and stay wet longer than other pavements. Field personnel report that they require 25 to 30 percent more deicing agent, and that in some conditions these pavements refreeze well after the conclusion of snow and ice control activities.

Objective

This project provides information and guidelines to help determine the optimum maintenance strategies for porous or permeable asphalt pavements, including:

  • Dense graded pavements
  • Open graded pavements
  • Ultrathin Friction Course

Results

This project was closed out after reaching the five year maximum time limit for contracts, per the State of Minnesota Statutes. Because of this, not all deliverables were able to be completed and approved by the Clear Roads Technical Advisory Committee (TAC).

The following deliverables (also posted under Final Products) include:

  • Task 6: White Paper on Chemical and Mechanical Interactions (98% complete)
  • Task 7: Synthesis of Best Practices (95% complete)
  • Task 8: Field Testing Recommendations (75% complete)
  • Task 9: Final Report (50% complete – not approved by TAC)
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Identification and Recommendations for Correction of Equipment Factors Causing Fatigue in Snowplow Operators

Problem

Driver fatigue among winter maintenance workers during winter emergencies can be prevalent as these workers are not bound by prescriptive hours-of-service rules. During these winter events, equipment operators work long, stressful hours, and fatigue can be a major problem resulting in higher crash rates, lower productivity, and increased health issues.

A recent body of research in fatigue management indicates that other factors, including in-cab and external equipment, are involved in driver fatigue and that there is no one simple solution available to mitigate driver fatigue and improve safety performance.

Objective

The goal of this project was to identify in-cab and external equipment factors that cause operator fatigue and make recommendations to reduce, eliminate, or correct these factors.

Results

This project will produce actionable and implementable improvements able to be applied to snowplow trucks. Therefore, recommendations that can provide quick turnaround and low cost solutions are preferred, but more in-depth and higher cost solutions may also be considered.

The final webinar took place on October 30, 2017.

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Quantifying the Impact That New Capital Projects Will Have on Roadway Snow and Ice Control Operations

Problem

New capital projects increase the time and money required to complete Roadway Snow and Ice Control Operations (RSIC). Unfortunately, this increased winter maintenance burden is rarely quantified and, therefore, is not considered during the early stages of the capital project development process. A method is needed for estimating this increased financial burden placed on winter maintenance operations by new capital projects.

Objective

This project’s objective was to develop an automated method of quantifying the anticipated impact that new capital projects will have on costs for RSIC. This method could be used in the early stages of project development to determine if an agency will need additional resources, such as trucks, salt, fuel, and manpower, to accomplish winter maintenance tasks after the project is completed. This methodology could also be used by maintenance managers to justify requests for additional resources after projects are complete.

Results

This project developed an Excel-based decision support tool to help agencies calculate the financial impact of capital improvements on snow and ice control operations. Researchers also developed recommendations for how winter maintenance personnel can work within the project development process to include RSIC operations into the considerations for geometric design of roadways.

The project’s final closeout webinar was conducted on November 14, 2017.

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Snow Removal Performance Metrics

Problem

Winter maintenance performance measurement and establishment of service standards are essential ingredients for DOTs in benchmarking success. All state DOTs measure their snow removal success in some way or another, but measures are often inconsistent and it’s difficult to determine if existing measures are accurately assessing the success of winter maintenance programs. In 2007, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) undertook a comprehensive study of performance measures and processes. The results were published in NCHRP Web-Only Document 136: Performance Measures for Snow and Ice Control Operations. The information in that report needs to be updated.

Objective

The objective was to identify and understand the snow removal performance metrics currently in use by the snow and ice states. Clear Roads wanted to know how snow and ice states are measuring their accomplishments and how they are communicating their levels of success both internally and externally. Further, Clear Roads wanted to identify commonalities and differences between agencies in order to develop a matrix of performance measures, which can be used by agencies to assist them in achieving their winter maintenance goals.

Results

A matrix of snow removal performance measures, along with recommendations for scoping a Phase 2 project, which will help agencies develop and implement a performance measurement program.

The final webinar took place June 30, 2016.

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Snowplow Operator and Supervisor Training

Please complete this request form to access the training materials.

Problem

Every state provides some training for snowplow operators and supervisors. However, each training program has its own strengths and focus areas. Clear Roads had identified the best and most extensive training materials from its member states and partners, and undertook this research project to organize these materials into classroom courses that can be utilized by any Clear Roads state.

Objective

The purpose of this project was to develop a series of flexible training modules for snowplow operators and supervisors that could be used, modified and updated by any Clear Roads member agency to serve as partial-day or multiple-day classroom-style training courses.

Results

The key outcomes of the project are presentations, course guides, exams and other training support materials for the 22 topics identified by the project subcommittee. For details, see the List of Modules and Descriptions under Final Products on the right side of this page.

Clear Roads is making the training materials available free of charge to any agency, including local and county highway departments. Please complete the request form to access the materials.

This project was featured in an article in the February 2018 issue of Roads & Bridges magazine.

This project’s close-out webinar was conducted on February 3, 2017.

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North American Study on Contracting Snow and Ice Response

Problem

Transportation agencies are faced with many challenges, including reduced funding, an aging and decreased fleet size, increased maintenance costs, staffing reductions, and pressure to outsource or contract traditional “in-house” functions. These challenges require agencies to continually investigate and evaluate the most effective practices for managing resources required for winter maintenance operations.

Objective

The objective of this project was to gain an understanding of the state of the practice in contracting for snow and ice control by state DOTs. Investigators documented the costs, benefits, practices and complexities associated with contracting to perform snow and ice control functions.

Results

The analysis conducted through this project provides states with the information needed to modify and improve their own snow and ice control contracting practices to save money and better manage resources.

The final webinar presentation was given on December 28, 2016.

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Plug-and-Play Initiative: Phase II

Problem

Clear Roads has been leading a collaborative effort called the Plug-and-Play Initiative to develop 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.

Within the next year, Test bed software will be developed to verify compatibility with the previously developed protocol. This software will be hosted by Clear Roads and available free of charge to vendors. After completion of the software, Clear Roads plans to test the protocol. It is then intended for member states to start using it in procurement.

This Phase II project identified a standard protocol for the transmission of data from a vehicle to a point location.

Objective

This project built on the efforts of both the Plug-and-Play Initiative and the Connected Vehicle Project to define a standardized set of data (attributes and units of measure) available from winter operations equipment and then identified the standards for the transmission of data from vehicle to point location.

Results

This project identified the most appropriate standard protocols and made recommendations regarding the method of transmission.

The final webinar presentation was given on November 7, 2016.

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Identifying Best Practices for Snowplow Route Optimization

Problem

Roadway snow and ice control constitutes a substantial expenditure for many northern and Midwestern states throughout the winter and spring months. Properly maintaining the roadways in these states involves complicated decisions regarding the staging, routing, and refueling of the vehicle fleets that are responsible for plowing roadways and spreading deicers. Optimizing statewide fleet operations includes three distinct problems: 1) how best to divide the network into service territories, 2) how best to allocate winter maintenance vehicles among these territories, and 3) how best to route vehicles within the various divisions. Agencies also want to assess facility locations to identify opportunities for greater efficiency.

Objective

The purpose of this project was to identify best practices at state agencies for route optimization and facility placement, including the use of commercial off-the-shelf software.

Results

This project created a synthesis report on snowplow route optimization, including a straightforward comparison matrix that illustrates the pros and cons of the route optimization efforts that have been undertaken by winter maintenance agencies to date. Given the potential cost savings associated with optimization of winter maintenance operations, state DOTs in snow states stand to reap considerable benefits by optimizing their snowplow routing.

The final webinar presentation was given on November 1, 2016.

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Synthesis on GPS/AVL Equipment Used for Winter Maintenance

Problem

Many states are interested in testing or implementing GPS/AVL systems to gather information on their winter maintenance programs, including truck location, truck speeds, material usage rates, etc. There are a variety of tools and equipment involved in these systems, including truck controllers, data collection devices, cell phone or Wi-Fi, plow sensors, and data schemas that allow synthesis of the range of data collected. Clear Roads members would like to better understand the array of options on the market.

Objective

To help states better understand the options available (systems and components) for varying situations and truck configurations, this project sought to develop a clearinghouse of information based on state experiences with GPS/AVL.

Results

The key outcome of this project was to develop a “consumer reports” type of digest analyzing the different GPS/AVL systems available, including how well each one performs, and systems requirements and constraints.

The final webinar presentation was given on May 23, 2016.

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