State highway department to receive new snow trucks

Saturday, December 9, 2006

State highway officials in Putnam County are scheduled to receive four of 76 new snow trucks recently unveiled by the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Fred West, superintendent of INDOT's Cloverdale subdistrict, said the Bainbridge garage recently received one of the new trucks that hit the road for the first time during Thursday's winter blast.

"Everything went well," West said.

The new trucks, which cost around $120,000 each, are being touted by highway officials for their updated design, including fiberglass hoods and fenders as well as stainless steel beds, which will prolong the life of the trucks.

Also the trucks have one gas tank, versus two on the old ones, which officials say will mean less time at the fueling station and more time plowing the roads.

Several electrical components on the new trucks have been moved inside the truck as well. This change will help keep water out of the electrical parts, preventing them from short-circuiting.

The addition of 76 new trucks to the INDOT snow plow fleet marks the first increase in the agency's plow fleet size in more than a decade, officials said this week.

For 15 years, INDOT's fleet has remained at 1,100 trucks. These trucks were used to plow the state's 1,000 snow routes, with 10 percent of the trucks kept in reserve.

Locally, the Cloverdale district is responsible for clearing a total of 1,100 "lane miles" of roads during winter events. Drivers count both directions of the road when calculating distance. For example, 1 mile of road equals 2 lane miles.

Roads in Putnam and parts of Hendricks, Clay, Morgan, Parke and Boone counties are cleared using 38 trucks and a fleet of drivers that during major winter weather events can reach near 60.

West explained that there are enough workers to alternate routes and keep someone on the road at all times.

No major accidents were reported in the subdistrict Thursday morning when a light dusting of snow fell on much of the area and winds raged to near 25 miles per hour.

"Fortunately we had no major problems," West said.

He said snow trucks were out Monday through Wednesday, prior to the snow, putting down a salt brine that acts to melt the snow and prevent ice from forming.

With one minor storm behind him, West is hoping predictions of mild weather ahead hold true. But in case that doesn't happen, he says the department has an ample supply of salt and supplies ready to go.

"We're in good shape," he said.

With the addition of the new trucks, INDOT's overall snow plow fleet will increase to 1,117, the number of state snow routes will increase to 1,017 and 59 older trucks will be retired.

West said he hasn't heard of any additional routes coming to the Cloverdale Subdistrict.

State officials say the additional snow routes will allow the department to clear state roads even faster in snow events and plow new lane miles that will be added with Major Moves construction.

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