Last Winter, Lauri Novotny (our very own Town Clerk) spent some time riding along with a few of our snow plow drivers to get a first-hand look at what it takes to be able to do what they do, day in and day out. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least!
Not only are the snow plow trucks large and heavy (in excess of 60,000 lbs without salt/sand) but when you add the 12-foot front blade and 9-foot side blade, the plow is a massive machine! There are flashing lights, a rear camera, controls for the various blades, controls for the sand and salt mixture, interior temperature controls, engine gauges, and so much more – add that to the windy conditions which cause drifting of snow and minimal visibility – these guys have a lot of responsibility when behind the wheel of these big trucks!
We often take for granted that the plow is going to keep our streets clean for our daily commute. What we may not realize the depth of their job. For example, as the plow driver is pulling up to an intersection, he needs to consider the length of the plow in addition to the truck as he nears the stop sign or intersection. There is much less visibility when pulling out to an intersection that has trees and/or other obstacles within the line of vision. A great example of this is pulling on to County Highway J from one of the intersecting streets. As the driver visually inspects the lanes of traffic, he then has to pull on to the road but as he does, he has to constantly be aware of the length of plow in front of him. He isn’t just pulling in to his lane as the length of the truck/plow doesn’t allow for that. He is essentially utilizing both lanes for his turns in order to turn adequately. In addition, something that Lauri found interesting is that as the plow makes a right hand turn with both the center blade and right plow wing down, they have to back track and make multiple passes in order to clean up the intersection to allow for safe travel. It’s not just turning the corner as it might appear.
There are obstacles to be aware of as well including but not limited to:
Not only are the drivers constantly monitoring the weather but they’re also deciding the amount of salt/sand mixture to use, when to use it and how to maintain the best roads possible for travel. Although their maximum rate of speed is typically 25-35 mph, depending on conditions, they cannot control the snow. The faster they drive, the further they’re able to push the snow as the plow has more momentum but, the weight of the snow tends to cause damage to items like mailboxes and surrounding trees. Light, fluffy snow will blow off the plow much easier than the heavy, wet snow.
Our drivers use their best judgment. Safety is a priority. The more we can be aware of their job, the safer we can make our Town not only for our plow drivers but our residents as well. Things to remember: 1) If you’re meeting a plow truck, realize that the driver is trying to move over as far as he can but the road may be narrow or there may be another obstacle in the way that prohibits the truck from being able to move over more. 2) When pulling out in front of a plow truck, it may appear safe to you but the stopping distance is greater with the sheer weight of the truck, added to the salt/sand – that’s a lot of truck to stop quickly if need be. 3) Drivers are people too. They have families and enjoy the beauty of our Town just as you do. They put in long hours whether it be evening, weekend or extended day, enduring numerous obstacles and battling whatever Mother Nature has provided whether it be snow or ice, wind or freezing rain. These guys are dedicated to keeping our roads as clean as possible. It’s often a thankless job but certainly one that we can all attest is an important one!
The Town of Stockton has 87.21 miles of roads that are maintained by three very dedicated full-time individuals and one part-time individual. The County Highways, US Hwy 10 and I-39 are maintained by Portage County. The Town of Stockton crew is responsible for not only our Town roads but also maintaining the intersections within our Town as they intersect with County roads. It’s a joint effort at times to maintain the road integrity as well as safety for all travelers.