Five ways to optimize your winter road maintenance

Winter road
Mark DeVries
Solution manager, Weather and Environment Americas
Weather & Environment

Winter road maintenance is essential to everyday living, and the road maintenance sector is facing more challenges than ever, from fluctuating road use to budget constraints. 

The good news? New challenges also bring new opportunities. The drive for efficiency has never been stronger, and there are ways to make progress that didn’t exist until recently.

What are the best ways to respond and ensure ongoing safety? Read on to see five ways to optimize your winter road maintenance.

1. Optimize your budget
The state of the economy has an effect on budgets, and some budgets are now limited to providing just what is needed to maintain service levels. 

Additional requests for materials or equipment often require special approval, so it’s a good idea to think ahead to what may be needed at the beginning, middle, and end of season.
Question to consider:
• What process will you need to follow if you need more salt or if equipment needs to be quickly replaced? What can you do if no one is available to deliver more salt?
• Will you need more operators, and if so – what’s the best way to get them hired and trained quickly?

2. Optimize staffing 
Road maintenance authorities are looking for ways to streamline personnel training and scheduling. For example, some agencies are scheduling half their crew to be off, while half of them work.

Every organization deals with seasonal absences, but consider these questions: 
• With staggered work schedules, can you expand to 24/7 service for more coverage?
• How can you provide coverage in case of illness or quarantine?

3. Get accurate forecasting
The need for accurate forecasting cannot be understated — it’s critical for better decision-making. Our connected world provides many sources of weather information, but most of them are not time-specific and do not provide insight about your road network. 

A single, trusted forecasting resource is the best way to prepare for the next storm. The ideal forecasting tool should help you answer questions about:

The storm: What kind, how intense, and when will it begin? 
The duration: How long will it last and when will it end? When will the next event take place?
The crew: How long will we need to plow? Will there be hazards impacting crew activities?
The materials: What to use and how much? Will the materials work for this event? Is it possible to use liquid treatments?

4. Prioritize staff wellness
Improving wellness is a broad term, but it really means supporting staff so they can perform their best. For example, stress can impact health and make it difficult to be effective on the job.

Good communication is essential to make sure workers have the information and support they need, such as childcare options and how staff coverage will be affected by illnesses. In addition, brainstorm morale boosters and incentives for work-life balance.

5. Elevate efficiency with new technology
The industry’s emphasis on efficiency brings new opportunities to leverage technology. Innovative new tools can make the job faster, easier and more accurate — ultimately making roads safer while saving resources and creating more sustainable practices.

Two powerful new tools can help you do just that: Mobile Detector MD30 and Vaisala Wx Horizon.

The Vaisala Mobile Detector MD30 gives you and your winter road maintenance team the data you need, right when you need it. The first device designed specifically for snowplows, MD30 accurately collects and transmits data on road surface state, grip and surface temperature along its route. 

Supervisors can see road conditions from a central location as data is collected on each route; drivers know right away what the road conditions are and can adjust material and amount as they go. 

Vaisala Wx Horizon is a first-of-its-kind service that helps you stay ahead of weather changes and make accurate decisions on when – and how – to keep your roads safer. The combination of observations and forecasting that Wx Horizon performs gives a clear and accurate view of current and near-future road weather conditions, simplifying road maintenance decision-making for greater speed, accuracy, and proactive maintenance. Wx Horizon can help you to:

Maintain safer roads with all the information you need to decide when and where to deploy your fleet
Drive efficient treatment practices that optimize winter maintenance resources
Provide consistent Level of Service with a single, accurate, and reliable source of data

Learn more about how to drive improvement in your winter road maintenance strategies –  no matter what the season brings.

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