The Iowa Department of Transportation has implemented a couple of changes as workers prepare for another winter of battling snow and ice on the state’s roads. Craig Bargfrede , the Iowa DOT’s winter operations administrator, says cameras will be installed in all snow plows and still images will be posted online.

“So, the public will be able to view those and see what’s actually going on out on the system from our operator’s perspective,” Bargfrede said. Last winter, about two-thirds of the DOT’s roughly 900 snow plows had cameras. This year, all of them will be equipped with the technology. All plows will also feature blue and white safety lights, along with the familiar amber color.

“The blue and white portion of our lighting package is only rear facing. So, you will know when you see that lighting package, you’ll be coming up (behind) a snow plow truck,” Bargfrede said. The Iowa DOT experimented with the blue and white colors for the past several years and, according to Bargfrede, they’ve helped reduce certain types of crashes by nearly two-thirds.

DOT snowplow camera view in February of this year.

“Our own internal research crash data over the last four years, we really saw a reduction in rear-end and side-swipe crashes to our vehicles when we started doing the blue-white-amber lighting package,” Bargfrede said.

The Iowa DOT sets aside $40 million each year for winter operations. Bargfrede oversees roughly 1,000 full-time employees. “And we’re also in the process of trying to hire some seasonal employees, in the neighborhood of 600 seasonal employees, to augment our full-time staff across the state of Iowa,” Bargfrede said. Those part-timers are paid $17.45 an hour.

Iowa’s low unemployment rate is making it difficult to find those extra workers, according to Bargfrede. While DOT workers wait for the first significant winter storm, they’re busy with maintenance on the plow trucks, topping off storage sheds with salt, and going through driver training.

“We have a driving simulator that is rotating throughout our districts, where we’ve got operators going through and doing refresher training and new operator training on that driving simulator,” Bargfrede said.

The Iowa DOT’s winter season begins Monday.