Until recently, Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) snowplow truck operators manually completed a work order documenting their spreading activities after each shift. At times, however, the orders were too generalized and lacked details needed by ITD fleet managers for analyzing operations. “Extracting the data from the handwritten orders was difficult and very time consuming,” said Dennis Jensen, ITD mobility services winter operations coordinator. To address this issue, ITD began installing the SpreadSmart Rx electronic spreader control system and sensors on its trucks in 2011. To date, ITD has upfitted 409 of its 430 trucks with sensors and the automated spreader control system available from Certified Cirus Control Systems.
ITD next developed its Winter Automated Reporting System (WARS). The system went online in February 2016. It converts the GPS-coordinates-based data supplied by its electronic spreader control system to ITD’s linear-referencing system, which is based on routes and milepost positioning. From the converted data, WARS identifies the specific spreading activities of a truck and generates an automated work order.
After the end of each work shift, ITD operators bring up WARS to download and approve a daily summary of spreading activities. “The WARS review and processing the detailed data takes less than five minutes a day, and reviewing the data for operational critiques takes only a minute through WARS reporting extractions,” said Jensen. After an operator approves the summary and clicks “accept,” the information is automatically fed into ITD’s asset management system.
“We have extremely important granular data telling us exactly how we fought the storm for post-review critiques of what we did and when we did it. Then we can also evaluate how effective we were with the treatment,” said Jensen. “Prior to WARS, we just captured our efforts. Now we have a whole system to gauge cost versus effort plus accomplishment with our 130 road weather information system (RWIS) sites located along ITD’s 12,000-plus highway lane miles.”
In regard to return on investment (ROI): “We’re estimating we’ll save approximately 750 man hours per year just with the reduced time for manually inputting the operator work-order data. Other sources of ROI involve reduced material use,” said Steve Spoor, ITD maintenance services manager. “Based on our original assumptions, we believe the payback period will be around four years for a 12-year life of the spreader controller.”
ITD’s system for automating the analysis of winter road maintenance operations went live the fall of 2015. The system builds a geo-fence or a bounding box around an RWIS site, and as a snowplow truck passes through the bounding box, the system captures the truck’s spreading activity data and overlays it on an RWIS graph. The RWIS graph provides detailed information on the condition of the roadway surface.
The analysis system has been of great value to ITD because operators can see the effectiveness of the application matrix they are using. If the application matrix is not working as planned, operators can adjust and modify it as needed throughout the winter season. “The system improves our performance significantly since we’re now able to better match a storm event with the right product,” said Jensen.
To learn more about how two other DOTs and two cities are using snow and ice control data and reports to achieve their winter road maintenance goals, read the full white paper.