Research Projects | In Progress Projects

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Expanding Application Rate Guidance for Salt Brine Blends for Direct Liquid Application and Anti-icing

Problem

Direct liquid application (DLA) has been shown to be effective at clearing snow and ice while using less salt than granular salt application. However, a lack of detailed guidance and application rates for multiple brine blends across a variety of weather and pavement conditions may prevent some agencies from fully utilizing DLA as a winter maintenance strategy.

Objectives

To expand on the currently available guidelines for the use of brines and brine blends for DLA and anti-icing. By providing a more complete set of application rates for various pavement temperature ranges and road surface conditions, this project will help facilitate expanded use of DLA and anti-icing at agencies across the country.

Expected Results

A more robust set of data is necessary to provide agencies with the information needed to apply various liquid deicers in a broader range of field conditions, particularly at lower temperatures. This project will gather that data through a survey of practice and subsequent field testing. The test results, along with the survey results and information gathered in a literature review, will be used to create a set of application rate tables for brine and brine blend usage for DLA and anti-icing.

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Synthesis of Technical Requirements and Considerations for an Automated Snowplow Route Optimization RFP Template

Problem

Some state DOTs use snowplow route optimization programs to optimize their fleet sizing, determine new facility locations, and develop snow and ice routes. Optimization programs can result in cost savings through more efficient and effective use of staff, equipment and materials, and optimal placement of winter maintenance facilities. However, developing the Request for Proposals, specifically the technical requirements portion of the RFP, can be difficult and time consuming.

Objectives

To expedite the process for states to procure an automated snowplow route optimization program vendor by providing a list of technical requirements and considerations that states can use to build their Request for Proposals.

Expected Results

Through the survey and follow-up interviews with agencies and vendors, this project will capture the technical requirements and considerations involved in selecting a program; provide guidance on these decisions; and provide a list of technical requirements and considerations that states can use to build their own RFPs.

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Measuring the Efficiencies of Tow Plows and Wing Plows

Problem

As agencies consider purchasing new types of snowplow equipment, it is important that they understand the trade-offs between equipment costs and potential gains in efficiency. Both tow plows and plows with wings represent a greater up-front investment but are designed to allow a plow operator to clear more snow in a single pass than a standard front plow, potentially providing efficiencies in terms of plow cycle time, labor and equipment allocation, operating costs, increased level of service, and more.

Objectives

To (1) to provide Clear Roads member states with a thorough understanding of the real-world costs, benefits and efficiencies associated with purchasing, operating, and maintaining tow plows and wing plows over the equipment’s entire life cycle, and (2) to provide tools to help guide states’ equipment purchases and their deployment of tow plows and wing plows on the roadways where they will yield the greatest efficiencies.

Expected Results

Through a practitioner survey, testing / simulation, and analysis, this project will quantify these efficiencies, provide a thorough examination of the extent to which these efficiencies are realized under real-world conditions, and identify the roadways best suited to deployment of the different plow types. Finally, this project will produce a decision support tool and best practices guide to help agencies more accurately assess the efficiencies, costs of ownership, and return on investment for this equipment and determine the best locations to deploy it.

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Recruitment and Retention of Highway Maintenance Workers

Problem

The general lack of drivers from the Great Recession of 2008-2009 and the retiring of the Baby Boomers, coupled with the long hours and frigid work conditions, contributes to state DOTs’ struggles to find and retain highway maintenance workers.

Objectives

To provide state DOTs with information that can be used to more effectively recruit and retain highway maintenance workers. A related objective is to develop objective data about state DOTs’ recruitment / retention challenges that can be presented to state legislative committees or upper management in order to influence agency policy.

Expected Results

This project will develop five to seven case studies examining agencies’ efforts and experiences in recruitment and retention of highway maintenance workers. Based on these case studies, recommendations will be provided that will include a list of recommended exit interview questions that agencies can use with departing employees to better understand what aspects of the positions could be modified to attract and retain workers.

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Standard Test Procedures for Ice Melting Capacity of Deicers

Problem

Preliminary testing has indicated that the ice melting capacity of various deicing products may vary significantly, even within specific deicing product categories. In addition, states’ processes for procuring deicing materials limit competition, are subjective on performance, and can become increasingly burdensome for lab, procurement, and management staff.

Objectives

To provide transportation agencies with an objective, repeatable test procedure for measuring the ice melting capacity of deicers.

Expected Results

Clear Roads wishes to standardize product testing to help states meet level of service requirements with the lowest possible procurement costs. In this project, the Mechanical Rocker Test Procedure, developed by Nebraska DOT, will be evaluated for use as a national standard.

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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.

The Final Webinar took place on May 4, 2020.

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Review and Summary of Pre-wet Methods and Procedures

Problem

While previous research has been done in this area, Clear Roads believes that gaps in knowledge exist and that further investigation is needed to identify the most effective materials, equipment, and methods for pre-wetting.

Objectives

The compilation of relevant recent knowledge, data, and guidance, as well as detailed descriptions of current national and international agency practices regarding on-board pre-wetting of solids, specifically focusing on the areas of materials, equipment and methods (including application rates and vehicle speed).

Expected Results

To provide guidance to transportation agencies seeking to effectively employ the practice of pre-wetting of solid materials in their winter highway maintenance protocols. A Phase II project is planned, which will combine the results of both phases to produce a comprehensive guide to pre-wetting. That ultimate deliverable must inform the approach, development, and execution of this Phase I project—the compilation and review of knowledge and practices.

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Evaluation of SSI and WSI Variables

Problem

Storm Severity Index and Winter Severity Index are important measures in comparing individual storms and annual winter weather severity. Currently, there is no standard set of variables used in connection with these indexes. While an agency can review and compare its variables with similar variables used by other agencies, the lack of a uniform set of variables measured in a consistent manner precludes agencies from effectively comparing the winter-related inputs such as the labor and materials used to perform winter maintenance.

Objectives

  • Identify state, national and international agencies using SSI and/or WSI.
  • Determine the variables and measurement methods used to create the indexes. (A variable of particular interest to Clear Roads states is freezing rain.)
  • Gather statistical data resulting from analysis of each variable for consistency and variability.
  • Recommend the most reliable variables, with the highest correlation to storm severity, for developing SSI/WSI.
  • Create a flexible spreadsheet tool that allows agencies to develop a state-specific SSI/WSI.

Expected Results

The deliverables from this project will allow winter maintenance managers, researchers and transportation agencies to more effectively compare winter operations among localized areas, districts and states. Agencies will also be able to compare individual storms and across years to evaluate innovations and new winter maintenance methods.

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High Performance Blade Evaluation

Problem

High-performance snowplow blades are designed to last longer than standard plow blades, and they typically cost more as well. However, since many variables can affect blade life, it can be difficult for an agency to determine which blades are the most cost-effective overall. Since Clear Roads recognizes that it may be challenging to develop a standard field test protocol that controls for all of these variables, this project will involve compiling and analyzing the results of field tests to be conducted at multiple state DOTs, as well as conducting a cost-benefit analysis of each blade type.

Objective

The objective of this project is to develop a field test protocol and cost-benefit analysis methodology that can be reproduced by Clear Roads agencies in future testing, so that other blades can be evaluated and compared using the same standard procedures used in this project.

Expected Results

Based on field test results, the Clear Roads will produce a Quick Reference Guide outlining the features and specifications of each blade along with key field test results and cost-benefit ratios in an easy-to-read format. These tests will also be repeatable with future-developed high performance blades as a standard test protocol will also be developed.

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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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