Minnesota snowplow crews put new technology to work

Snowplow technology is advancing, and many Minnesota crews are acquiring new equipment.

As we look toward more snow later this week, there’s always evolving technology helping plow drivers across Minnesota do their job. 

Though Anoka County has had them for a few years, the blue lights on a few trucks in its fleet are getting attention the way the old yellow lights didn’t. 

“They’ve been using the yellow amber strobes for some many years, but so is everyone else, and now the general public has kinda got immune to that whole warning signal. So, we decided to change it up a little bit," said Jim Plemon, Anoka County Maintenance Superintendent.

The teal LED fog lights improve the driver’s visibility drastically in blowing snow, cutting through whiteout conditions. 

“When the visibility becomes an issue, it comes to the point, ‘are the trucks safe out there?’" Plemon added.  

Meanwhile, Ramsey County recently acquired flexible snowplow blades from Europe.  

“If you have tire grooves, it will flex and take that snow out of there so you are removing 95 percent of the material on the road,” said Bob Trick, Ramsey County Public Works Superintendent. “That means we have to use less salt.”

For the sake of the environment and the price jumping from $59 dollars per ton to $80 this winter over last, everyone is looking for ways to use less salt.

Trick marvels at how technology has come compared to his first winter clearing roads more than 30 years ago.  

“I rode around in the back of a dump truck with a scope shovel, throwing salt out of the back,” he said.

Now, road crews are ready, as MnDOT shows off its newest tow plow, which debuted last winter. Agencies often look to the state for the latest and greatest technology, while also consulting one another for what’s right at the best cost. 

“There’s a lot of equipment out there; you can sometimes be skeptical about being the first person to try it,” Trick said.

While the immediate focus is the next snowfall, there’s already attention on next winter. 

“Our families are using these roads, too, so let’s make them safe,” Trick said.