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Plows Using Temperature Sensors to Better Treat Roads

Posted at: 01/11/2013 6:42 PM
By: Katie Eldred

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Thursday night’s rain and this morning’s drizzle caused some tricky situations on the roads as there were some icy patches causing commuters to slow down. But MnDOT has a new tool that helps them decide exactly how to treat those roads.

In Chatfield the roads may not have looked bad.

“I think they are just wet, not even icy," said Hannah McBroom.

But combined with the fog they were bad enough to cancel school for high school student McBroom.

"The back roads were supposed to be bad, that's probably why school was canceled," said McBroom.

For roads like these, MnDOT has a new tool that helps them figure out just what condition they are in.

"Freezing fog was on most of the roads, so they glazed over during the night," said Jim Hurley.

Plow driver Jim Hurley was called in at 5 a.m. to clear out the slick roads. With that new tool he knew exactly how to treat them.

"This morning the recommendation was 100 lbs. per mile on the pavement," said Hurley.

That tool is called an MDS system. It uses radar from The National Weather Service. That’s combined with the sensors on the truck that tell the road temperature and the wind speed to give exact recommendations on how to treat the roads.

The system also predicts the forecast by hour and gives the driver constant updates.

"Depending on what the road temperature is it'll tell you what material to put down, so if the temp is going down you might not want to put salt out you might want sand," said Hurley.

There is also a feature that shows exactly where all the other plow trucks are. Which can come in handy if any driver ever gets stuck or has mechanical issues.

So far the system is already helping MnDOT save money when it comes to salt and sand.

"I see us using a lot less material, with the recommendations if you fallow them, it's pretty accurate," said Hurley.

With that much accuracy, MnDOT hopes it in their battles to keep the roads clear..

The clearer the roads the better for Hannah McBroom.

“My parents won’t let me drive when the roads are wet like this.”

The systems are now in 248 of MnDOT’s 450 plows state wide. They are hoping to have them in all of the trucks within the next few years.