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Where are snowplows? Now there’s an app for that

First Published      Last Updated Dec 22 2015 09:33 pm

UDOT » Agency unveils an online tool offering information on which roads have been cleared.

Want to see where snowplows have cleared highways? Now there's an app for that.

During a snowstorm Tuesday, the Utah Department of Transportation unveiled a new feature on its smartphone app and its website that allows people to see where snowplows are, and the roads they have cleared in the last 30 minutes.

"We still get the calls every snowstorm: 'Where are your plows? Why hasn't my road been plowed? You guys aren't out there,'" said Jason Davis, UDOT director of operations. "Now with a click of a button, we will be able to see where every one of those snowplows are throughout the state."

The app covers only the 500 snowplows used by UDOT on state highways and freeways, and does not include county and city snowplows on local roads.

Davis said UDOT placed GPS tracking devices on all of its snowplows statewide. They use cellphone technology to connect with UDOT's traffic operations center, where their locations automatically are posted online on the app and website.

"On the app, you can view and click-on snowplows and it will bring up every snowplow in the state" plus purple trails showing where they have been, Davis said.

On the website — udot.utah.gov — click the weather tab and hover the cursor over a snowplow icon and the purple line showing where it has traveled will appear.

"You will be able to see what direction [the plows] are headed." Davis said.

"It's going to help the public move more efficiently and safely," he added. "Maybe they delay their trip just a little bit to allow those plows to get out there ahead of them. … The roads are much better behind the plows than in front of them."

Also, Davis said the tracking "is also going to help us manage our resources more effectively.

"As you can imagine with 500 snowplows out there, trying to make sure they are hitting the most critical routes and keeping a good coverage throughout the state is a challenge."

The new tool will make that easier.

The system also transmits information about how well a snowplow truck is performing — and alerts officials if one breaks down, or develops problems, such as an engine overheating.

"Sometimes we can see that something is happening before it breaks down, and save the state thousands of dollars on a repair," Davis said.

The new system does have a few blind spots around the state, because it can send information only where cell phone service is available. Davis said it is not available on sections of U.S. 40, U.S. 6 and U.S. 89, for example — "but the snowplows are out there doing their job."

Davis said that with a string of storms predicted throughout Christmas week, "When everyone is opening presents and spending time with their families as they should, we're going to have our snowplow drivers out there keeping the roads clear. They're not home on Christmas. They are out there keeping the roads safe."