DOT plow on the Interstate in Des Moines. (RI file photo)

The Iowa DOT has its trucks ready to roll to handle snow and icy conditions.

Winter operations director, Craig Bargfrede says many of those trucks will have more miles on them than is normal. “We have been running into some issues with getting our new trucks. Typically this time of year, we’d be right about in the middle of our replacement cycle for the year. And we’re way behind that right now,” Bargfrede says.

He says the new trucks may not arrive until after the threat of snow is over. “We’re probably not going to receive them until the April May, June timeframe,” Bargfrede says. “So what that means is the older trucks that were going to be replaced this season will have to operate them and keep them going and functioning for one more season yet.”

Bargfrede says they’ll put a little more time into to maintenance than they would normally do to be sure the trucks are kept in good working order. Last winter didn’t require as much salt as normal — so the stockpiles of that key ingredient in fighting winter are looking good. “We were able to come out of last winter and really get a good stockpile on hand. Current capacity across the state for us is about 239,000 tons,” he says. “We currently have just shy of 264,000 tons on the ground and are about 110% of our capacity.”

If the weather is a lot worse than expected, Bargfrede says they should be able to get more salt. “I know we’ve had some questions regarding transportation, and is there going to be a salt shortage and whatnot. In talking to our vendors that we deal with, they are not giving us any indications of any kind of salt shortage from their perspective, “Bargfrede says.

Diesel prices are up compared to last year and if the plow trucks have to hit the roads a lot this winter, that will have an impact.
“Fuel costs play a big part in winter operations — but we still got to get out there and do what we need to do to get the roads back into their normal winter driving conditions,” he says. “So, we monitor those fuel prices quite closely. And and if we need to do something from a budget standpoint, you know, we’ve already been looking at alternate plans.”

Bargfrede says the fuel costs add another variable into the scenario — and its another reason they have to just be ready and be patient as they see what winter hands them.