Research Projects | Completed Projects

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Comparison of Materials Distribution Systems

Problem

There are dozens of different types of solid material distribution systems used in winter maintenance such as chutes, spinners, zero velocity, augers, etc. These systems have a wide range of costs and effectiveness. Some agencies use commercially available systems and others create their own systems out of scrap material available at a maintenance garage. Agencies do not know which of these systems is most effective or have a way to determine which type is best suited to their agency’s needs.

Objective

The goal of this project was to identify and catalogue as many solid material distribution systems as possible and develop a plan for field testing them. Systems with pre-wetting capabilities should be included in the study, although equipment for slurries or direct liquid applications is not included in the scope of this project.

Results

Results include:

  • A photographic catalog of all the different types of material distribution systems identified.
  • A Final Report with a recommended plan of study for field testing to assess the effectiveness of material distribution systems.
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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 draft Clear Roads Universal In-Cab Performance Specifications and Communications Protocol is available here.

Timeline

  • A collaborative group of Clear Roads members and spreader and AVL vendors developed a draft protocol (2011-2014).
  • The draft protocol was posted for public comment in February 2014 and again in September 2014.
  • In early 2017, Clear Roads completed the Plug and Play Initiative, Phase 2, which identifies a standard protocol for the transmission of data from a vehicle to a point location.
  • In late 2017, Clear Roads kicked off the project Developing Test Bed Software to Qualify Plug and Play Technology, which allows testing of devices to ensure compliance with the developed protocol.
  • The Clear Roads Test Portal went live in early 2019. It is available for vendors to validate their equipment to ensure it is compliant with the protocol.
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Development of a Totally Automated Spreading System

Totally Automated SpreaderProblem

DOTs are constantly challenged to maintain safe, passable roadways through the winter season. Winter weather can generate a variety of unique conditions and many factors need to be analyzed to identify the best approach for treatment in any given situation.

The implications of improper treatment include public safety concerns, failure to meet or exceed the customers’ expectations, waste of materials and adverse impact on the environment. The vehicle operator has the most influence on effective treatment as they determine application rates and use of varying medium (i.e. granular vs. liquid or granular w/liquid). Like any human process, this is subject to occasional errors. A totally automated dispensing system could help mitigate the potential for human error in determining the best approach for treatment of winter roads.

Objective

The intent of this study was to determine if a totally automated dispensing system is achievable and cost effective and develop recommendations on the best way to implement such a system in the short and long term.

Results

A guide to help agencies assess the levels of spreader automation available and how best to implement the latest technology into DOT fleets.

This final presentation webinar took place on May 5, 2014.

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Environmental Factors Causing Fatigue in Snowplow Operators

Factors Causing FatigueProblem

During winter events, equipment operators work long, stressful hours, and fatigue can be a major problem resulting in higher accident rates, lower productivity and increased health issues. Reducing equipment operator fatigue during winter operations could increase safety, reduce employee absences and improve operator efficiency. This project looked at the environmental stimuli that contribute the most to operator fatigue and recommended practical, low-cost mitigation solutions. Focus areas included: (i) work and rest schedules for drivers and how they relate to driver fatigue and incidents, both when operating trucks with and without advanced in-cab instrumentation, (ii) the causes of fatigue-related incidents, and (iii) applicable functional countermeasures to reduce fatigue and potential incidents.

Objective

The goal was to develop a series of cost effective, realistic recommendations for reducing or eliminating fatigue that impacts equipment operators during winter operations.

Results

Recommendations on some cost-effective solutions to mitigate driver fatigue and potential avenues for further research.

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Understanding the True Costs of Snow and Ice Control

True CostsProblem

State Departments of Transportation are under constant pressure to justify their snow and ice program budgets and to look for new approaches to saving money, such as hiring private contractors and reducing level of service. However, all stakeholders need a better understanding of the total cost of winter operations in order to make informed decisions.

Objective

To effectively defend current budgets and request additional needed funds, winter maintenance professionals needed a better understanding of the costs associated with their operations, how these costs compare with other similar states, and opportunities for reducing spending that would not negatively impact level of service.

Results

A better understanding of what data would be needed to accurately measure and compare winter maintenance costs between storms and agencies. The project also developed a tool that allows users to analyze and compare the labor and material costs of up to four different storm events.

This final presentation webinar took place on December 18, 2013.

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Determining the Toxicity of Deicing Materials

Testing ToxicityProblem

The winter maintenance community has information on the relative corrosive properties of deicing chemicals, liquid and solid, in use throughout North America (MgCl2, NaCl, “beet juice” etc.). However, there is little information available regarding the toxicity of these various compounds, especially to the aquatic environment.

Objective

This project evaluated the toxicity of deicing chemicals in the following base chemical categories: Magnesium Chloride, Calcium Chloride, Sodium Chloride, Potassium Acetate and Glycerol. As a result, the researchers were able to develop a ranking of the chemicals according to toxicity.

Results

A final report and a concise summary of the toxicity rankings that helps winter highway maintenance managers consider both expected levels of service and potential harm to the environment when selecting a deicer to use.

See the final presentation webinar below.

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Cost-Benefit Analysis Toolkit (Phase II)

cost-benefit2Problem

To help winter highway maintenance managers justify the costs of new materials and equipment in the face of frequent budget cuts, Clear Roads funded the Cost-Benefit Analysis Toolkit – Phase I research project. Clear Roads members were pleased with the resulting toolkit and decided to expand and enhance it further.

Objective

This Phase II research project enhanced the Cost-Benefit Analysis Toolkit developed in Phase I, addressing issues and expanding its functionality to include additional materials, equipment and methods.

Results

An updated version of the Cost-Benefit Analysis Toolkit that provides the following:

  • Ability to run on more versions of Internet browsers.
  • Reporting in additional formats (such as Microsoft Word) for easier manipulation for presentation.
  • Ability to save multiple scenarios and revisit them.
  • Options to analyze more winter maintenance materials, equipment and methods.

See the  article in the “Winter Maintenance Supplement” of Roads and Bridges magazine (June 2013 issue).

 

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Snow Removal at Extreme Temperatures (Phase I)

SnowRemovalatExtremeTempsProblem

Using salt to keep roads clear works very well down to approximately 10 degrees Fahrenheit. It will also work at lower temperatures, but it requires higher volumes and becomes less cost effective. When the temperature gets extremely low state agencies tend to plow the roads, rely on abrasives, and/or use high volumes of salt. In more urban areas with high traffic volumes, abrasives are ineffective and other strategies result in the over usage of salt, equipment, and manpower. Additional strategies need to be identified for maintaining both low and high-volume roads in extreme temperatures.

Objective

The goal of this project was to review best management practices for maintaining clear roads at extremely low temperatures and develop some cost effective strategies for achieving and maintaining bare/dry roadway conditions in extreme temperatures.

Results

The final report compiled strategies for winter maintenance during extreme cold that have been used by DOTs and other jurisdictions.

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Developing a Training Video for Field Testing of Deicing Materials

Deicing Testing VideoProblem

State DOTs spend millions of dollars per year on snow removal and deicing activities. In order to meet level of service requirements under increasing budget and environmental constraints, DOTs need to be able to determine the “best value” for both chemical and mechanical snow/ice removal practices.

Objective

Clear Roads had previously developed a step-by-step Field Guide for Testing Deicing Chemicals to support the evaluation of deicing chemicals by DOT staff. Clear Roads wanted to develop a step-by-step instructional video to accompany it that would demonstrate the three levels of field testing that can be performed to determine the effectiveness of a deicing chemical.

Results

The result of this project is a DVD that has been distributed to state DOTs for use in training their maintenance staff on basic field testing. In addition, the video is available on the Clear Roads website and YouTube.

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Mapping Weather Severity Zones

Weather Severity Mapping

Problem

State DOTs need a better way to compare their operations with other states with similar weather severity in order to identify opportunities for reducing spending that will not negatively impact level of service.

Objective

The goals of this research were to analyze weather severity in the snow and ice states and develop a methodology to map weather severity across the regions and states.

Results

A series of maps that depict winter weather severity across the U.S. in a manner similar to the plant hardiness zone maps used for agriculture. The weather data was compiled from the National Weather Service and Federal Aviation Administration from 2000 to 2010. 

See the article in the September 2013 Winter Maintenance supplement of Roads & Bridges magazine.

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