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PennDOT debuts high-tech new plow

Submitted Mon, 11/25/2013 - 10:05am by Andy Alm

MEADVILLE -- A tow plow is the latest weapon in the arsenal that PennDOT District 1 has available in its annual battle with winter ice and snow.

As its name implies, a tow plow is a snowplow that is towed behind a conventional truck equipped with a front mounted plow. When activated, the tow plow “steers” out and angles into the right lane to allow one truck to clear two 12-foot traffic lanes with one pass.

“We at District 1 work very hard to keep winter roads safe and passable, and this will give us an innovative new tool to use in clearing ice and snow,” said William Petit, District Executive of PennDOT District 1.

District 1’s new tow plow is assigned to the Crawford County Maintenance Office in Meadville. During this first winter of operations, the new plow will be used on Interstate 79 between Meadville and Edinboro and on Route 6/322 between Conneaut Lake and Meadville.

Because of their size, tow plows are only used on interstates or other multi-lane roads.

A tow plow typically costs between $99,000 and $106,000, depending upon equipment. Tow plows are 30-feet long and gives a typical plow truck a 24-foot plowing width, enough to clear two 12-foot lanes at once.

Petit urged motorists to give all snow plows room to operate and never try to pass a plow truck or group of plow trucks.

“Plow drivers have an enormous responsibility. They have a difficult job and often work in conditions with limited, sometimes near-zero visibility,” Petit said.

When encountering a plow truck, drivers should follow these safety tips:

Stay Back: Stay at least six car lengths behind an operating plow and remember that the main plow is wider than the truck. Wing plows, which are located on the sides of the truck, are generally 10 feet wide.

Remain Alert: Snowplows generally travel much more slowly than other traffic and may at times be completely obscured due to blowing snow or heavy snowfall rates. This is especially true in open areas where high winds can create zero visibility without warning.

Move Over: Move as far away from the centerline of the road as is safely possible when approaching a snowplow head-on, and remember that snow spray can obscure the actual snowplow width.

Never Pass: Never try to pass or get between several trucks plowing side by side in a "plow train." The weight of the snow thrown from the plow can quickly cause smaller vehicles to lose control, creating a hazard for all nearby vehicles.

Don't Drive in the Snow Plow "No Zone": Never travel next to a snowplow since there are blind spots where the operator can't see. Also, plow trucks can occasionally be moved sideways when hitting drifts or cutting through heavy snowpack.

Headlights On: Keep your lights on when driving near snowplows to help the operator better see your vehicle. Also remember that under Pennsylvania state law, vehicle lights must be on every time a vehicle's wipers are on due to inclement weather.