OHIO VALLEY — The Ohio Department of Transportation wants to remind motorists, “Don’t Crowd the Plow” during another onslaught of winter weather.
Drivers who try to pass or tailgate snow removal equipment place themselves and road crews in danger. When highways are snow-covered and icy, visibility can also be decreased. Snow and salt being dispersed from snow removal equipment can complicate the situation.
“Move over and stay back” are the words Meigs ODOT Transportation Manager Keith Weber uses when advising drivers caution on winter highways.
“If you see a snow plow coming toward you, please move to the right. We plow the center line first, and we need people to be aware that our trucks need to stay in the center of the road and that snow is being thrown to the sides.”
What is created by the snow plow is called a “snow cloud,” and even the green flashing lights of ODOT trucks may not be visible. ODOT invites drivers to go to their Facebook page and look at the photo of Don’t Crowd the Plow, a good illustration of low visibility for drivers behind a snowplow.
He offers the same advice for avoiding salt trucks.
“Salt trucks can make sudden stops, ” Weber said. “So stay back, do not tail gate. We are there to clear the roads and make them safe for drivers, so be patient.”
Meigs ODOT has 10 trucks on site and Tuppers Plains outpost has six. Crews are working 16-hour shifts with mandatory eight hours breaks in between treating and plowing southeastern Ohio highways and bridges.
Working since 7 p.m. Monday, Weber said with up to four additional inches are predicted to fall, and Meigs crews plan to work around-the-clock until Wednesday evening.
“Our concern is with dropping temperatures, snow will begin to stick on roads and bridges.” he said.
Now Weber spends most of his time inside managing the workers, equipment and supplies, but said he began his career doing just what road crew workers like Kevin Oiler are doing now.
Oiler said he applied for the job with ODOT because he liked working outside and wasn’t interested in an office job at this point in his career.
“This job gives me the opportunity to do lots of outdoor work,” he said. “The job includes not only snow removal, but pothole repair, which is constant in winter.”
He and Weber said workers spend their time between winter storms doing road repair and equipment maintenance. During the summer, work involves mowing and ditching and road repair.
The job requires a variety of skill, including driving the salt trucks and snow plows at consistent speeds between 25 mph and 30 mph. Today, crews were replacing blades on plows, readying them for the night’s work ahead.
“We go through a lot of blades. The roads are hard on the equipment, especially the blades,” Weber said.
Meigs ODOT officials they are proud of their crew, and special accolades are given to Dan Davis, winner of the statewide Rodeo Challenge. Davis competed in the Challenge, whose measures include both written and driving tests as well knowledge of the proper mix of materials used for snow removal.
“One of the tests is to drive a fully equipped snow plow through an obstacle coarse,” Davis said. ” I enjoy competing and putting my skills to the test.”
“We are always getting training here at ODOT,” Davis said. “There is always something new to learn, new safety measures to train for, new equipment to manage.”
The newest and now most popular material for snow and ice removal is “beet juice” mixed with salt brine.
“The mixture is made right here in our garage,” Weber said. “All the mixtures are, as well as the decisions as to what works best as conditions present themselves.”
So one last word of caution for drivers: Slow down and “don’t crowd the plow.”
For up-to-the-minute winter road conditions, visiting www.ohgo.com. ODOT is active on social media at www.facebook.com/ODOTD10 and www.twitter.com/ODOT_SEOhio.
Reach Lorna Hart at 740-992-2155 EXT. 2551.