Mobile devices can tap into snow plow locations


SMYRNA –– This year DelDOT is making it easier to know when snow plows will be clearing your road with the addition of the Snow Plow Tracking feature to the DelDOT app available on both Apple and Android devices.

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Delaware State News file photo

“I’m a huge proponent of transparency in state government so I think it’s the right of Delaware’s citizens to know how we respond to weather events,” said DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan.

Now when looking at the Traffic Map within the app, in addition to options like traffic, travel times and speed limits, a snow plow option is now available to users.

By selecting “snow plow” the Traffic Map will show orange and gray markers where the 330 snow plow are located. Orange represents those in motion while gray represents those parked or currently out of service.

With the simple tap of a finger, users can select a specific plow and the truck’s stock number and direction it’s moving are visible.

For the feature, each snow plow was equipped with a GPS monitor that reports to the app its location and direction every two minutes although DelDOT is working on shortening the update speeds.

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By selecting “snow plow” the Traffic Map will show orange and gray markers where the 330 snow plow are located. Orange represents those in motion while gray represents those parked or currently out of service.

“We designed this system so you can get your traffic information the same way you get all your other information, your phone,” said Gene Donaldson, director of DelDOT’s Traffic Management Center.

Not available on the app yet, but coming soon will be a “special events” option that will inform the public of how exactly the roads are being cleared including information like when plows are clearing primary roads and when they head to secondary roads.

“During storms we basically start with our most traveled roads, our arterial or primary roads. We concentrate on clearing those roads first,” said DelDOT’s Director of Maintenance and Operations Mark Alexander. “After that we move to our secondary roads and then we get to local roads –– mostly the roads without lines.”

During long events, trucks may need to plow, then replow main roads to keep them clear as snow continues to fall.

“If you’re looking at the tracker, you’ll see the plows staying on primary roads if we’re getting an inch an hour or two inches an hour,” Mr. Alexander said. “We have to make sure the main roads are clear before we can move on to our secondary and tertiary roads.”

DelDOT works diligently to get roads clear and has set goals to establish how quickly clearing should be done depending on the severity of the snow.

Starting from the time snowfall and severe drifting end, DelDOT aims to clear all roads within 24 hours for four or less inches of snow, 48 hours or less for four to eight inches and 72 hours for more than eight inches.

Something to keep in mind is that even if a plow is moving, it may not necessarily be plowing. GPS devices are left on as trucks refill with gas or salt and when they are headed to their assigned routes. Some plows are also pre-staged along main roads when bad weather is imminent so no time is wasted getting the plows from headquarters onto the roads.

“There is a lot of strategy that goes into storm response and please keep in mind that our number one asset is our employees so if you’re out on the roads during a snow event, respect the plows and give them the space they need to do their job,” Sec. Cohan said. “Our employees put themselves into harm’s way for the public’s safety.”

Some of the standard features of the app already include congestion updates, live traffic camera feeds, speed limits.

New, along with the snow plow tracker is a real-time precipitation meter that measures both snow and rainfall in various locations across the state.

“You really can see whatever you need as long as you have a connection to the Internet,” Mr. Donaldson said.

DelDOT hopes that the availability of the new feature will reduce the number of non-emergency phone calls that come in during severe weather events.

DelDOT will also be experimenting with dash cams on some of its vehicles this winter. The videos will be transmitted to the Smyrna Transportation Management Center so staff can better relay conditions to the public. Dash cams may be another tool available to the public as DelDOT strives to make up to the minute information more accessible.

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