With winter road conditions imminent, the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) is ready. Plows are on the trucks, drivers are trained, materials are stockpiled, and the MDT's newest snow removal equipment, TowPlows, are set to make their debut clearing roads across the state this winter.
"The TowPlow is a steerable, trailer-mounted plow that is pulled behind a snowplow truck" said Jon Swartz, MDT Maintenance Division Administrator. "The TowPlow can be rotated to one side of the truck, which doubles the plow width of a tandem-axle snowplow truck," he added.
The 26-foot-wide plow gives the operator the ability to move snow efficiently and safely from two lanes of roadway in one pass. The efficiency of clearing double the lanes with half the resources is increasingly important as Montana's highway system expands. Eight TowPlows are now in the fleet and will be used in the following areas: Lookout Pass, Kalispell, Helena, Townsend, Bozeman, Great Falls, Billings, and Glendive.
TowPlows have been used successfully in other states for several years, but many Montana drivers have never seen one in action. The TowPlows are equipped with a granular spreader and a tank for dispensing liquids for snow and ice control.
"When the TowPlow is activated and it is rotated to the side, it may appear that a truck has a jackknifed trailer," Swartz continued. "Don't be alarmed, MDT's experienced drivers have the situation under control, and the TowPlow is where it's supposed to be." To see TowPlows in action, go to www.mdt.mt.gov/towplows/
In addition to the new TowPlows, standard plows will continue to be used throughout the state. Motorists are urged to use the following safety tips when encountering any snow removal equipment:
- Slow down and stay behind the snowplow. Don't crowd the plow - stay at least five car lengths from the snowplow.
- Be patient. Periodically, the plow operator will pull off the road or rotate the TowPlow out of the way to allow vehicles to pass.
- Be particularly aware of icy conditions on surfaces such as bridge decks and entrance and exit ramps.
- Turn on headlights and turn off cruise control settings.
To receive updated information on road conditions call 511, download MDT's mobile application, or visit
mdt511.com before you drive.