As winter looms, Iowa uses snowplow simulator to increase safety

$195,000 snowplow simulator is a solid investment in state that spends $35 million on snow removal.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

How would you like to drive one of those monster snowplows in a driving blizzard, on a four-lane highway with no idea if a car will careen wildly in front of you or whether a ditched car is already covered in snowfall? If you live in a heavy weather state in the Midwest, for example, Iowa, how do you like having workers learning to drive the things while you're on the road?

Iowa now has a high-tech solution - a $195,000 snowplow simulator - to help train about 600 employees in safe operation of the things, the DesMoines Register reports. Iowa spends $35 million a year on snow removal, with 1,200 employees and 900 snowplows engaged in the effort.

The goal is to improve highway safety by providing snowplow operators with a realistic experience in a non-threatening environment, said John Haas, an executive officer with the DOT's office of maintenance in Ames.

"If they make mistakes, there is nothing lost. They have a chance to do it over and try again," Haas said.

Providing good training is important because driving a snowplow for the DOT can be a tough, hazardous job, said Dennis Burkheimer, DOT's administrator of winter operations.

Arlen Olson, 57, a DOT snowplow operator who clears interchange ramps on Interstate Highway 35 in northern Iowa during winter months, knows the value of being fully trained outside of real-world situations.

>During Olson's real-life work experiences over 16 years, he once had a semitrailer run over his truck's wing plow, and on another occasion a motorist crashed into the back of his truck. He's also seen plenty of motorists lose control and dangerously spin out in front of his truck.
Editorial standards