BISMARCK-Knowing where and when a North Dakota Department of Transportation snowplow truck will be moving through an area is now possible through a new pilot program.
Track-A-Plow is a DOT program where 47 of the department's 350 snowplow trucks are equipped with automated vehicle location systems that log and share data on each truck using cellular technology. Each truck sends data showing where the truck is located, the direction the truck is traveling, average speed and when the data is updated. That data is fed automatically to an online map, which the public may access at Brad" target="_blank">bit.ly/trackaplow. Brad
BradDarr, the DOT's state maintenance engineer, said one purpose of the program is to allow the public to see where a state snowplow has been, where it is going and how long it may take for the truck to get there.
"Basically it (the program) is for public transparency," Darr said. "People want to know where the plow trucks are so they can plan their travel accordingly."
Tom Sorel, the DOT director, said in a prepared statement this use of technology will help the traveling public stay safe.
"This is one more piece of information that travelers can use to see what is happening on the highways," he said, "and make more informed decisions when making traveling plans."
Darr said Minnesota and Iowa already have this technology on state snowplow trucks and other communities have similar tracking systems on public vehicles like garbage trucks. He said the automated vehicle location systems are being provided by Verizon, and it costs about $120 to install on each truck, plus $20 a month per truck for the cellular service. He said the systems have been in the 47 pilot program trucks for a little over a month.
"The systems have some benefits for us (the DOT)," he said. "It sends back diagnostics on each truck. In a snowstorm we'll be able to use it to locate a truck somewhere quickly."
Jaime Olson, DOT communications specialist, said so far they haven't received a lot of questions about the Track-A-Plow program from the public.
"We haven't had a big snowstorm since we had the systems installed in our pilot trucks," she said.
Darr said it is too soon to see if the DOT will have the systems installed into all of its snowplow trucks.