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What do you really know about snowplows?

February 08, 2021 09:00 AM
By: Maggie Baker

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Did you know…. winter can bring blizzards? Of course you did! We just had one last month, and our fantastic field staff worked to keep our roadways passable during the entire event.

But have you ever thought about the vehicles our employees operate during snowstorms? 

Let's learn about two types of dump trucks in our fleet – Mack and International.  The Mack and International tandem dump trucks cost approximately $232,000 per truck. These trucks weigh in at 25,690 to 25,900 pounds alone and 73,280 pounds with accessories and equipment. Both trucks have an average height of 10 feet, 7 inches. 

The single-axle International truck cost approximately $189,000 and weighs 18,000 pounds alone and 58,400 pounds with accessories and equipment. It has a height of 10 feet, 2 inches.

During the winter months, these trucks are equipped with various plows, which are assigned to a vehicle depending upon the route the vehicle will be traveling. A typical front plow will vary in size from 10 to 13 feet in width and will weigh up to 4,000 pounds. Some trucks are equipped with wing plows which are 11 feet in width and weigh 2,500 pounds. Dual wing plows are typically used on four-lane highways.

Spreaders are located on the back of the trucks and are 8 feet in width and weigh 500 pounds. They discharge material to the center of the roadway but can switch direction. In addition, the trucks can also store salt brine – up to 240 gallons for tandem trucks and 120 gallons for single axle trucks. The purpose of the pre-wet system is to use a salt brine solution when spreading salt material being applied to the roadway just as the material is hitting the spinner. This starts activating the salt and helps it to stick to the roadway.

The equipment on the trucks is powered by an electric over hydraulic system. Controls in the cab send an electronic signal to the hydraulic valve located on the outside of the truck, which activates the different hydraulic functions of the truck through a series of hydraulic hoses and fittings. These controls are located in a tower to the right of the driver. The driver can control the plow, wing plows, and dump box using the joysticks located on the tower. Additionally, the operator can control the speed of the spreader, spinner and pre-wet system using a turn dial located on the control system.

Inside Snow Plow
A look inside a Mack snowplow from PennDOT District 3.
The operators also monitor a display screen that is mounted either on the tower or the dash. The screen provides information regarding material levels, temperature of the air and roadway, hydraulic pressures in the system, how much material is being applied at a time and how much material was used during an event. The operator is likely driving while controlling and monitoring all of this.


These machines are nothing but impressive, and we owe a big thank you to those who operate them and the mechanics who work on them. Keeping our roadways open during winter storms is a vital job, and we appreciate their efforts. 


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