GPS Tracking for Snow Plows

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Many cities are adding GPS tracking capabilities to their municipal vehicles, and one northern Illinois city is now equipping its snowplows with the technology. The manager of snowplow operations reports a number of positive results that have already been seen from use of the technology.


The Task

Throughout the winter, the city of Joliet, Illinois battles frequent winter storms that routinely dump several inches of snow on the area. As snow begins to fall, the city’s fleet of snowplows hits the streets, clearing snow and spreading salt. Keeping the streets clear is a huge job, since it can take more than four hours for the plows to clear just the main routes. Many more hours are required to make all of the side streets passable. Many homeowners grow impatient waiting for their street to be cleared. Some even call the garage, demanding to know when the snowplow will reach their neighborhood. Sometimes, a snowplow must be diverted to clear a specific street, such as when an ambulance needs to reach a particular home.


The Technology

The city of Joliet recently equipped all of its snowplows with GPS tracking technology. With this technology, the supervisors in the garage can instantly see exactly where every snowplow is located. This enables them to give specific information to impatient homeowners. Individuals respond much better to “the snowplow is in the next subdivision and will be coming to you next” than to “the snowplow is working its way through the north of the city and will reach you eventually.” In one instance, the supervisor was able to tell a frustrated homeowner that the snowplow was in fact moving down his street right then.


If a snowplow needs to be redirected for an emergency, knowing the exact location of each plow allows the supervisor to send the closest vehicle. After the snow is over and the streets are cleared, management can review the GPS data to determine how they can more efficiently perform the snow removal for the next storm. Some of the GPS systems even keep track of the amount of salt that is being poured and where it is released.


GPS tracking technology continues to make its way into more and more areas of life and work. While the average consumer may think that snowplows don’t need GPS since they simply travel from street to street in a prescribed pattern, it is obvious from these features that it can render a valuable service.

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Nichole Decoust

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