As temperatures drop, industry magazines are turning their focus to winter maintenance. Clear Roads research features prominently in two of them this fall:
- “Steering Clear of Crashes“: Clear Roads’ safe and defensive driving training materials are featured in the October issue of APWA Reporter.
- “Can You Hold the Salt?“: Clear Roads research on alternative methods for deicing is spotlighted in the September issue of Roads & Bridges.
In preparation for the season, winter maintenance crews from across the country demonstrated their skills at the annual National Snow Roadeo in September, with a four-person team from the Idaho Transportation Department taking home the national team title. Congrats to all the winners!
Finding and keeping skilled, dedicated highway maintenance workers has become increasingly challenging for state and local transportation agencies.
To help agencies navigate today’s employment landscape, a recently completed Clear Roads research project created a comprehensive guide of innovative, practical strategies for attracting and retaining new winter maintenance employees. Case studies cover recruitment programs, retention strategies, recruiting younger workers and those from underrepresented groups, and program improvements.
Check out the latest episodes from AASHTO’s SICOP Talks Winter Ops podcast:
- PIARC Winter Service Technical Committee: What’s in It for Me? (Episode 51): Steve Lund, Paul Pisano and host Rick Nelson—all members of the PIARC (World Road Association) Winter Service Technical Committee—talk about how the committee’s work benefits the U.S. winter maintenance community. September 2021. Podcast.
- The Year in Review (Episode 50): A review of SICOP activities over the past year and a look ahead to next year with SICOP Chair Steve Lund of Minnesota DOT. August 2021. Podcast.
- Six Summertime Projects for Winter Maintenance (Episode 49): A conversation with Paul Brown of Roadtech (formerly of Massachusetts DOT) about six summertime projects to help agencies prepare for the upcoming winter. July 2021. Podcast.
- Not All Pavements Are Equal When It Comes to Winter Maintenance (Episode 48): A discussion of winter maintenance operations on permeable friction courses based on Clear Roads Project 12-03. With study authors Michelle Akin, formerly of Washington State University, and Laura Fay of the Western Transportation Institute. June 2021. Podcast.
Image source: City of Fargo, North Dakota
Clear Roads has posted a Request for Proposals (RFP) for an additional research project in the 2021 funding cycle:
- Efficacy, Cost, and Impacts of Non-Chloride Deicers: An Educational Primer and Product Information Sheets—Proposals due September 17
As a reminder, Clear Roads is also soliciting investigator proposals for the following research projects:
- Grip Sensor Technology and Salt Applications—Proposals due September 3
- Best Practices for Protecting DOT Equipment from the Corrosion Effect of Chemical Deicers (Update to CR 13-04)—Proposals due September 3
- Training Module Development for CR 18-03: Evaluation of SSI and WSI Variables—Proposals due September 3
- Evaluation of Electric Vehicle Technologies and Alternative Fuels for Winter Operations—Proposals due September 3
- Calculating Plow Cycle Times from AVL Data—Proposals due September 3
- Determining the Migration of Chloride-Based Deicers Through Different Soil Types—Proposals due September 3
Please see the Clear Roads RFP page for more information.
Clear Roads is currently soliciting investigator proposals for six new research projects:
- Grip Sensor Technology and Salt Applications
- Best Practices for Protecting DOT Equipment from the Corrosion Effect of Chemical Deicers (Update to CR 13-04)
- Training Module Development for CR 18-03: Evaluation of SSI and WSI Variables
- Evaluation of Electric Vehicle Technologies and Alternative Fuels for Winter Operations
- Calculating Plow Cycle Times from AVL Data
- Determining the Migration of Chloride-Based Deicers Through Different Soil Types
Please see the RFP page for more information. For all projects, the deadline to submit proposals is Friday, September 3, 2021.
Pre-wetting road salt helps keep the salt on the road’s surface, which makes winter maintenance more efficient and cost-effective. While pre-wetting practices are used by many agencies, they have not been extensively studied.
A recent Clear Roads research project took stock of the current state of the practice for pre-wetting salt and other solid materials, capturing details on equipment, methods, materials and application rates. Researchers also compiled a list of preliminary recommendations to help agencies get the most benefit from pre-wetting and identified areas for future study.
Download the final report: Review and Summary of Pre-wet Methods and Procedures, June 2021.
Photo by Dave Gonzalez, Minnesota DOT
South Dakota DOT’s implementation plan for its Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) and Iowa DOT’s study of corn-based deicers recently captured national attention as two of AASHTO’s Sweet Sixteen high-value research projects for 2021. The award recognizes the nation’s top high-value research projects as chosen by state DOT research directors in each of the four AASHTO regions.
In South Dakota, statewide deployment of the MDSS is already yielding operational and safety benefits, with researchers estimating a six-year benefit-cost ratio of 3.25 (including projected reductions in crashes and fatalities).
In Iowa, innovative research identified three promising blends of corn-based deicers that merit further evaluation as environmentally friendly materials that could reduce the use of salt.
The two projects were honored last week at the annual AASHTO Research Advisory Committee meeting, where Michigan DOT also received a Supplemental Award in the Safety category for its study of green strobe lights for improving conspicuity of winter maintenance vehicles. For more on these award-winning projects:
- South Dakota DOT: Maintenance Decision Support System Implementation Plan (Sweet Sixteen, Region 4) | Video presentation
- Iowa DOT: Corn-Based Deicers (Sweet Sixteen, Region 3) | Final report | Two-page brief | Video presentation
- Michigan DOT: Effectiveness of Green Strobes on Winter Maintenance Vehicles and Equipment (Safety Supplemental Award, Region 3) | Final report | Fact sheet | Presentation slides
Congratulations to all of the winners!
Image source: South Dakota DOT
For maintenance professionals who are looking to expand their qualifications, this summer may be a good time to explore the online associate’s degree program in Highway Maintenance Management offered by Front Range Community College in Colorado.
Unique in the nation, the online program is designed for current highway maintenance professionals who are interested in advancing to a management role. Students can enroll full-time or part-time, and can cut the time and cost of their degree by receiving credits for skills, training and experience accumulated over the course of their career. FRCC awarded its first degree in the program this spring.
Image courtesy of Front Range Community College
Road deicing is a major cause of chloride impairment in Minnesota’s urban waters. Aiming to reduce these impacts, Minnesota DOT researchers partnered with the City of Edina to test an adaptive management approach to deicing.
Through adaptive management—repeatedly checking the effects of actions and making adjustments—the researchers found that most of the chloride movement in a residential watershed occurred during a small number of winter events, which allowed maintenance staff to make targeted adjustments to their deicing operations. Researchers created a training manual on using adaptive management for deicing and a spreadsheet tool to help agencies improve their deicing operations.
Image courtesy of Minnesota DOT
LED plow headlights have several potential advantages over traditional halogen bulbs, including longer life, reduced susceptibility to damaging vibrations, and improved visibility and reduced eye fatigue for operators. To compare the two bulb types, New Hampshire DOT tested LED lights on 17 plow trucks and surveyed operators about their experiences.
Operators overwhelmingly preferred the LED headlights, and a cost-benefit analysis showed that the lights’ reduced maintenance requirements led to significant cost savings compared with halogen bulbs.
Read the research report: LED Snowplow Lights: Evaluation Report, New Hampshire DOT, October 2020.
Image source: New Hampshire DOT