Snowplowing operations need driver cooperation

Snowplowing operations usually take place during very poor visibility. Other drivers, therefore, need to be aware of how their driving affects or hampers snowplowing operations, especially from the viewpoint of the snowplow driver.

If there were no other vehicles on the road, snowplowing would be quite easy. However, that is not the case. What follows are some of the biggest problems or concerns that snowplow drivers have.

Snowplows are big -?the length of these vehicles is 35 to 40 feet, and width with the wing plow is about 14 feet (Your car is less than 7 feet). They must drive this equipment in the worst of weather conditions, including poor visibility, while contending with other traffic, parked cars, rural mailboxes, guide rails, ditches, pedestrians, and residents shoveling or blowing out their driveways. And they do this for 8 to 12 straight hours or more. Keeping roads passable during a storm is considered emergency operations and therefore snowplow operators do not fall under the limits of consecutive hours allowed for other commercial truck drivers.

One of the biggest problems is that vehicles tend to follow plows too closely. The nature of clearing the roads of snow often requires plows to back up, usually at intersections, where they must turn the corner, dump the load of snow and back up before continuing. Too often vehicles fill the space where the plow must back into. Give the plow plenty of space, especially at intersections.

Another major consideration is that the center of the road must be cleared which necessitates the front left part of the plow crossing the center line into the oncoming lane. This means oncoming vehicles must move to the right side of their lane, giving plenty of space for the plow blade. And slow down! Just a slight skid could put you into the path of the oncoming snowplow blade.

Rural mailboxes and other roadside objects, such as illegally parked vehicles, add to the difficulty of a snowplow operator’s job. Plow operators do their best to avoid these obstacles but are not always successful. Remember, they are driving a large vehicle with a wide, heavy plow on the front, a wing plow on the side, a load of sand or salt with controls for applying the sand or salt on the highway, all of which must be operated by one person while driving this rig in poor visibility at all times of the day and night, and still contend with impatient motorists that do not appreciate this difficult and dangerous task.

When the occasional mailbox is hit and destroyed during plowing operations, you should be aware that, under traffic law and commissioner’s regulations, the municipality responsible for the plowing operations is under no obligation to fix or replace that mailbox. If they do, it is as a courtesy and you should be very thankful for that. Damage to mailboxes is more often caused by the force of the plowed slush or snow than from actually hitting the mailbox. Sometimes a hit mailbox is the result of an oncoming vehicle not giving the snowplow enough room, requiring the snowplow operator to move closer to the side of the road.

As we demand a high level of service on our winter roadways, remember, it comes as a result of dedicated employees trying to keep our roads as safe as possible while contending with miserable weather conditions, impatient motorists and objects along the highway, at all times of the day and night. Let’s appreciate the job they are required to do and give them our cooperation.

For more on traffic safety, go to and, under “Departments,” click on “Traffic Safety Board.” Under “services,” you will find “Did You Know” articles.