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 Blog Post

Ask A Plow Truck Driver

February 13, 2023 02:00 PM
By: Ready PA

A yellow PennDOT plow truck drives through winter weather.

We may be in a warming trend, but Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow. If you believe Phil, that means we have about four weeks left of winter weather. Phil knows that it’s better to be prepared and learn about resources available to you BEFORE winter storms arrive. 

PennDOT knows about winter weather and roadways. They have to plan and prepare since PennDOT maintains nearly 40,000 miles of roads and 25,400 bridges statewide, which translates into nearly 91,800 snow-lane miles — enough to circle the world nearly four times! To tackle this task, PennDOT uses 2,199 trucks, plows, and salt spreaders, operated by about 4,700 on-the-road workers. Over the past five winters, PennDOT has used an average of 801,453 tons of salt to keep Pennsylvania drivers moving. That is three Statues of Liberty. 

PennDOT is prepared and dedicated to keeping the roads open and passable. With all these facts, there are still questions. So, we asked a plow truck driver two of the most common questions about winter operations in PA.

I know it is snowing, but why are my roads still covered?

While snow is falling, roads will NOT be free of ice and snow. Why not? If snow is falling at 1 inch per hour, for example, and a truck takes three hours to return to the start of its route, 3 inches of snow has fallen. Whether an operator is plowing snow from a roadway depends on the depth or heaviness of snow or slush, severity of the storm, and in what stage of the storm the truck is being operated.

During a storm, plows use the same roads we all travel on. As traffic or precipitation increases, so does the time it takes for a plow to complete its route. If you're stuck in traffic, so are we. 

Also, during a storm, PennDOT will first plow and salt major highways before moving to less-traveled rural roads. During severe winter storms, equipment is often redirected from assigned rural routes to assist with plowing heavily traveled roads first.

Where is my plow truck driver?

During winter, you can see the location of hundreds of plow trucks on Pennsylvania's roads through the 511PA website. PennDOT’s owned and rented plow trucks are equipped with Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) systems. The AVL unit sends a cellular signal through the system to show where the truck is located and how much material is being spread by the truck. Visit 511PA and click “PennDOT plow trucks” in the legend to see where your plow truck is. 

More on Winter Safety

Learn more about Winter Weather Safety Tips We Love in the February 2023 Ready PA Newsletter.

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