DOT photo of truck testing equipment.

Snow is not in the forecast — but several big orange DOT trucks have been out on the highway with their sprayers going.

DOT winter operations director, Craig Bargfrede says they are spraying plain water, not salt brine. “The purpose of that is to make sure that everything is calibrated, and that we’re putting out exactly the right amount of material and the right amount of liquid. Depending upon which material we’re using,” he says.

He says all of the trucks are outfitted with a GPS system that is connected to the spreader controllers. “So part of the reason why we do the calibration is to make sure our accuracy in distributing the material. And then during the winter as we go through the winter season, as the trucks around operating and doing their winter operations, that information of is fed back through the GPS modem,” Bargfrede says. “And we capture all that data so that we know exactly how much material by each truck has done has been split out on the highway.”

Bargfrede says most of the treatment they do now is a salt brine. They may sometimes put down some wet salt, but only for certain conditions. Bargfrede says they have developed a guide for the plow drivers for setting the material that is deployed.
“You know, depending on the weather conditions, and what type of precipitation we got, dependent upon the temperature, that’s a guide that gives them a range for what kind of treatment strategies that they’re going to use,” Bargfrede says.

He says they started earlier this month to get everything ready for when there’s actual winter weather. “October 15 is the magical date. According to our policy and procedures, we need to have a certain percentage of our equipment and vehicles ready to go. And typically those early season type situations are some type of frost run or something like that depends upon conditions and the weather,” Bargfrede says.

Bargfrede says there is some early indication they may be busy. “Now in talking to our weather service provider, they’re kind of looking at the forecast for the winter season as being a below normal temperatures, meaning colder, and above normal precipitation, meaning we’re going to be wetter,” he says. “Now whether that comes in the form of rain or snow, we can’t really say for sure.”

Bargfrede says they will have the equipment ready — whatever Mother Nature throws their way.

Radio Iowa