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ODOT using new tech to clear snow from roads faster, save money

Posted at 10:24 PM, Jan 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-18 23:32:50-05

CINCINNATI — Ahead of snow showers in time for your Tuesday commute, the Ohio Department of Transportation is clearing streets using a new GPS program that helps crews tackling winter weather.

Now on every ODOT snow plow, you'll find a next-generation GPS AVL (auto vehicle location), an efficiency map that helps plows clear the roads faster.

"In the past you used to have to call out to individual truck drivers, or you'd have to hit the road yourself and see what conditions are like,” said ODOT’s Matt Bruning. “That can take time."

Each road crew and vehicle is tracked with GPS technology that sends data on salt usage and speed, as well as live video and pictures every five minutes. That data is then uploaded to cloud storage.

Bruning said the agility and flexibility the software brings are invaluable.

"What this allows them to do is make decisions in real time based on all of the data coming in,” he said.

He added that ODOT’s efficiency is key for anyone on the road -- crews or commuters.

“Our goal is to get the roads cleaned up, cleared, and get traffic moving as quickly and safely as we can,” Bruning said.

ODOT’s benchmark is to have primary routes back to normal speed two hours after the snow showers stop.

"We hit that goal 98% of the time,” Bruning said. “So we're pretty good at it. The real struggle has always been when the snow is coming down."

But new technology can't replace two vital qualities all drivers need to show: practicing patience and slowing down.

“We're not asleep at the wheel -- we're out there. It may not seem like it sometimes when it's snowing heavily, but our men and women are out there,” he said.

Giving crews plenty of room to work also helps clear roads faster. Last year, Bruning said ODOT recorded eight plows struck by other drivers across the state.

“That was a mild winter, that was a down year. Every time someone hits one of our plow trucks, that takes our plow out of service for a bit of time, depending on severity of damage to the truck."

Monitoring salt levels with the new GPS AVL also comes with a savings on tax dollars. So far this winter, nearly 253,000 tons of salt have been used statewide, which is on par with the 10-year average for this time of year.

Before you head out the door, check road conditions, closures and more here. Track the latest forecasts and find out when snow impacts your neighborhood here.