County road agencies take winter maintenance to a whole new level with innovative technology

Oceana County Road Commission underbody scraper with ice blade.

What if residents could track the progress of county road agency snowplows in their areas? What if snowplows could plow multiple lanes at once? What if trucks could combine three operations into one simple process?

At county road agencies across Michigan, these “what ifs” aren’t just speculation – they’re the reality.

Levels of service, or the maintenance “rules” road agencies create and follow during the winter, are an important part of keeping the motoring public safe during snow season. Over the years, advances in technology have allowed county road agencies to improve their levels of service.

According to Mary Samuels, managing director of Mason County Road Commission, the road agency is debuting SnowPaths, a real-time snowplow tracking program this year. Residents can enter their address into the program, and it will tell them when a truck has plowed their area.

At Menominee County Road Commission, Darrell Cass, PE, engineer-manager, says levels of service have improved because of better technology in their trucks.

“Our trucks now have increased capacity to haul salt and sand,” he said. “There used to be three separate operations: Graders would scrape ice and snow, then salt and sand was added, and then graders would go back and open up the shoulders. With today’s technology, we can do all three operations in one pass.”

Similarly, Oceana County Road Commission uses updated trucks fitted with left wings to plow both the right and left lanes and shoulders.

“When we stagger two trucks on the roadway, we can [plow] the left lane and left shoulder, and the truck following plows the right lane and right shoulder,” Mark Timmer, managing director of Oceana County Road Commission, said. “Before we had a left wing, a truck would have to come back and plow the shoulder. This saves a lot of time.”
With innovative technology and time-saving techniques, county road agencies can pursue their goal of keeping the motoring public safe this winter.

To learn more about how county road agencies will maintain roads this winter, read the Fall 2020 issue of Crossroads magazine, the quarterly journal of the County Road Association (CRA) of Michigan, which can be viewed digitally or downloaded at