Strengthening Winter Road Maintenance Programs to Tackle Record Conditions

This U.S. winter season has been far from average, with heavy snows, blizzards, and bone-chilling cold impacting large parts of the country. Historical events like the bomb cyclone that dropped more than four feet of snow on western New York and threatened 60% of the nation’s population showcase winter’s worst on a global scale by making international headlines.

At the city and county levels, those responsible for keeping roads clear and safe know that even more typical winter seasons still significantly impact their communities. In fact, in an average year, winter pavement conditions are responsible for 24% of all weather-related accidents, more than 1,300 fatalities, and billions of dollars in losses related to 544 million vehicle hours of delay. While storms are unavoidable, their impacts can be best managed with actionable weather and pavement insights, supporting accurate, timely decisions leading up to, during, and following an event.


Managing many factors

Maintenance managers must consider many factors when determining how to best respond to threatening winter conditions, many of which are directly affected by current and forecast weather.

These include:

  • Identifying which roads to treat
  • When to apply chemicals
  • What type of chemical to apply
  • Proper application rates

In addition to the weather, managers must also consider the costs of chemicals, fuel, and labor — concerns heightened in recent years by inflation, supply chain issues, and driver shortages. The impact of chemicals on the surrounding environment is also an important consideration as the public demands more sustainable practices.
An average of $2.3 billion is spent on snow and ice control operations each year, accounting for approximately 20% of U.S. state DOT maintenance budgets.Maintenance Decision Support Systems (MDSS) are the industry standard, integrating road and weather data, maintenance recommendations, and resource data to guide appropriate treatment strategies based on available resources and best practices.

While incredibly useful, effectiveness largely depends on the quality of the weather and pavement information feeding the MDSS. Real-time looping radar and satellite imagery and site-specific weather and pavement conditions are especially critical in providing a clear picture for decision-makers.


Getting ahead of the storm

Without a doubt, an MDSS is essential for organizations faced with winter road maintenance responsibilities — but incorporating innovative technology can fuel advanced strategies that deliver next-level results.

For example, proactive treatments, like anti-icing, not only greatly improve road safety but can also reduce maintenance costs by up to 90% compared to traditional deicing methods applied after conditions hit. However, the timing of preventive applications is crucial to ensure maximum effectiveness. Advancements in site-specific current and forecast road and weather conditions, such as those provided in the ClearPath Weather® MDSS from DTN®, can help organizations determine the proper windows, driving more effective and efficient operations.


Keeping roadways clear

To help pinpoint critical operations during the storm, ClearPath Weather offers detailed insights into precipitation with type, rate, and accumulation. Unique pavement models incorporating surface details and actual measurements provide temperature, condition, and percentage of frost risk information for roads and bridges, helping maintenance managers tackle dangerous black ice. Route-specific recommendations are also included.


Adding greater value

Location-specific alerts sent by text and email can keep snow fighters on top of changing conditions. MDC/AVL capabilities seamlessly integrate plow locations, observations, and images that not only offer better visibility into current operations but also improve future recommendations through automatic maintenance action integration.


Seeing is believing

This winter is far from over. Make sure your organization has the right tools to manage the next wave of storms with a free trial of ClearPath Weather.