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Getting plowed a whole new way

Getting plowed a whole new way

Iowa City, IA--Let it snow. Let it sleet, dump freezing rain, form black ice. Let winter come on strong. This year researchers at the Center for Transportation Research and Education (CTRE) at Iowa State University are actually looking forward to winter. In fact, they're daring winter to play.

The researchers, along with staff from the Departments of Transportation (DOT) from Iowa, Minnesota, and Michigan partnered with several technology providers to design a dream machine for winter weather: a prototype snowplow incorporating a variety of technologies.

According to Duane Smith, director of outreach at the CTRE, while the plow features no revolutionary technologies, they are new to the highway maintenance field: global positioning (GPS), a friction meter, gauges to determine pavement and air temperature, optic lighting, and an engine power booster.

GPS technology from Rockwell International determines the location of the applicator and meters provided by Norsemeter will measure pavement friction and temperature. "Using the readings, we determined the coefficients of friction, taking into consideration stopping distance and quality of vehicle handling," says Smith.

A computer transmits this information to the driver, advising whether road conditions are good, fair, or poor. At a glance, the driver can determine the appropriate action, and apply the proper mix and amounts of chemicals, says Smith.

The optic lights used include one with a new lens shaped to keep snow from building up and blocking the light and optic cabling outlining the wing plow. "It's like a fluorescent light surrounding the plow, making it more visible in blinding snow conditions," says Smith. "We opted for the light wrapped in the cable, which we hope will allow it to stand up to the tortuous conditions involved."

The final ingredient added to this test snowplow is an engine power booster commonly used in over-the-road trucks. "It gives a truck a boost of power to get out into traffic, and offers better emissions and exhaust temperatures," Smith notes.

Most of the equipment was donated for this experimental plow, with Monroe Trucking Co. assisting with the assembly. If experiments prove successful, several other trucks will be added to the fleet for testing in Minnesota and Michigan, two other locations known for their notoriously cold and snowy winters.

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