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A Thankless Job

Posted by Robert Thompson on 4.14.2023


A thankless job by definition is simple; it is defined as a difficult or unpleasant job, that people do, and typically receives no recognition. Individuals or a career path that is overworked and underappreciated. When we think of a thankless job, we often consider farming, housekeepers, home healthcare workers, and caregivers. However, I would like to add another classification, CDL drivers, and more specifically snow pushers, or snowplow drivers. This group of CDL drivers is often out on hazardous roads and in conditions where most sane people stay inside and call into work. This brave group of individuals is first responders to some of the most horrific accidents that occur in dangerous weather.


One of the main reasons why snowplow drivers are heroes is because of the dangerous conditions in which they work. Snowplow drivers often are obligated to work during the height of a winter storm, when visibility is poor, and road conditions are treacherous. These conditions can make it difficult to see the road ahead, and the risk of an accident is always present. Snowplow drivers must navigate narrow streets, steep hills, sharp turns, and mountain passes, often with little room for error. Despite these dangers, snowplow drivers continue to work tirelessly to clear the roads and keep drivers safe. Not to mention the long hours, physical strain, and everyday traffic these drivers must endure. Snowplow drivers often work extended shifts during a winter storm, sometimes working 12 hours or more without a break. This can be physically exhausting, especially when working in the cold, wet, and windy conditions that are common during a snowstorm. Snowplow drivers must also operate heavy equipment for long periods, which can be physically demanding and require significant skill.


In February 2023, I was granted the privilege of riding along with this brave group of drivers from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Region 4. I rode along in the CDOT “Towplow”, not to be confused with a snowplow. A towplow is essentially a snowplow, that is towing an additional plow that has the capability to rotate its rear wheels up to 30 degrees. Allowing the rear to rotate allows one truck to push and clear snow and debris up to 25 feet while applying liquid, and or granular deicer simultaneously. Now, admittedly so, I was uneasy with riding down the street, while I could see the rear of the trailer being horizontal. As I sat in the cab with this CDOT driver, I observed numerous gages, monitors, and controls he had to manage while plowing the roads. This was surreal as I witnessed a master multitasker manage several devices and provide superior communication with other plows on the roads as they worked together to clear I-25 providing a safer commute for Colorado residents. One of the many gizmos we monitored was the “Road Surface Friction Sensor.” This form of Road AI technology is attached to the front of the snow or towplow, and it uses a combination of Infrared Spectroscopy, Optical Polarization, Computer Vision, and Radar Detection simultaneously. Using all four technologies simultaneously this system can convert the data into a numerical value, and 0.8 is considered to be a dry road, and 0.35 is considered to be thin ice. When I started my ride along with CDOT the Friction meter read 0.26, however, by the time we concluded my ride along, the Friction meter read 0.65 to 0.75 consistently along I-25. Essentially watching the highway become safer to drive on while a mixture of snow and sleet still fell from the sky. At temperatures below freezing, I watched the highway transform from ice, to damp which essentially decreased the accident rate by more then 10% per million vehicles.


As I sat in the cab of this towplow in awe of how this CDOT driver was able to navigate so many different responsibilities at once, while still driving safely, and keeping his cool as vehicles drove around the towplow. However, I also enjoyed the sense of pride. CDOT is one of the biggest customers of EnviroTech Services, and consumers of the Ice Slicer product, and liquid deicer. Through the use of advanced technology, and calculating road friction levels increases public safety, but can also save money. Over-applying deicing treatments wastes resources, stretches personnel hours, and can also put unnecessary strain on the environment. Friction sensors help teams target ice and snow instead of broadly applying the same deicing strategy to an entire area. This concept helped save CDOT nearly $ 200,000 in a single winter (Loeffler, 2023).

Finally, snowplow drivers are the unsung heroes of winter because of the dedication and commitment they demonstrate to their work... When most people are inside, cozy and warm, these drivers are out battling snow, ice, and freezing temperatures to clear roads and ensure that emergency services can reach those in need. The work of snowplow drivers is essential to public safety and can often go unnoticed, but their dedication and hard work make them true heroes. Despite these challenges, snowplow drivers continue to work tirelessly to clear the roads and ensure the safety of others. Their commitment to their work and their community is truly heroic, and they deserve our respect and admiration.

Topics: Deicing Products, Deicing & Anti-Icing, Trucking Operations, Safety, PeopleHelpingPeople, Road Maintenance, Ice Slicer, Snowfighters, Snowpushers