This time of year, the lines at area car washes grow on any day where temperatures rise. If you think keeping your personal vehicle maintained in Iowa’s winter conditions is tough, image how challenging it can be for the fleet of more than 900 snowplows maintained by the Iowa Department of Transportation.
Our snowplow trucks are out in the harshest of weather conditions, plowing snow and applying rock salt and brine, a salt and water mixture, to help keep you moving. Keeping roads clear takes its toll on the equipment.
“Each of our snowplow trucks costs about $170,000 to purchase. With more than 900 trucks in our fleet, that’s a very large investment,” said Tina Greenfield of the Maintenance Bureau. “Our goal is to keep each vehicle 12 to 15 years, so maintaining those vehicles in good working conditions is a top priority.”
Winter road treatment for the Iowa DOT means hauling and placing tons of solid rock salt and millions of gallons of brine, a salt and water mixture. Once the snowstorm is over, every vehicle needs to be thoroughly washed and inspected to detect issues that need to be repaired, making sure it’s ready for the next winter challenge.
“For our field forces, these trucks are their offices. They spend a great deal of time in their vehicles and they take pride in keeping them well maintained,” said Greenfield.
She continued, “Salt and brine bond to every little nook and cranny in these vehicles. We are always testing new products to make clean up easier and more complete so the vehicles will last as long as possible. Over the years we’ve tested several different products to help break the salt bond to the vehicles. Right now, we’re using a couple of different products, one in the power washers for the underbody of the trucks and another called “salt away” that was developed for marine applications.”
Washing that many trucks creates a lot of wastewater. At more than a dozen of our maintenance facilities, wash water is captured and reclaimed. Mary Kay Solberg, an Iowa DOT environmental specialist, said, “At these locations, the drains from the garage wash bays do not go into the sewer system, but are routed to a tank where the solids settle out. The water goes back into our brine-making systems.”
The Iowa DOT is committed to protecting your investment in the equipment we maintain, while at the same time protecting the environment. Solberg said, “We all pay taxes and also live in the areas where we work, so it’s very important for us as Iowa DOT employees to do everything we can to not only prolong the life of the equipment but be good stewards of the environmental resources, as well.”