PennDOT has a new system that allows people to track some of its snowplows.
“Tracking snowplows” doesn’t exactly sound like an activity that’s begging for a high-tech solution; if there’s at least an inch or two sticking, it’s pretty easy to tell where a snow plow has been.
But, recognizing that some people prefer to know where the recently plowed roads are before they leave home, PennDOT has launched a snowplow tracking system.
About 700 of PennDOT’s 2,500 plow trucks have been equipped with Automated Vehicle Location equipment, which provides real-time data on a vehicle’s location, plow-route coverage and salt usage.
The pilot program is aimed at making highway snow removal more efficient. PennDOT expects to save $1.4 million over the next four to six years, because trackers help officials plot better plowing routes and use less salt.
The program began in 2015, but this year PennDOT made the tracking data accessible to the public via its traveler information website, 511PA.com, and its 511 mobile app.
The public can track where PennDOT’s trucks have traveled in the most recent two hours.
The GPS-equipped plows will be used primarily on Pennsylvania’s interstates and expressways, says PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt.
“You’re not seeing the full breadth of what PennDOT is doing out there, but it is just another bit of info for you in travels.”
In addition to the major highways and interstates like the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-95, PennDOT is responsible for many smaller routes, including some roads that many residents might assume the local municipality controls.
Pennsylvania is one of the first states to employ snowplow tracking systems to improve snow removal operations. PennDOT is a little late to the plow tracker game, compared to a couple Pennsylvania cities. Pittsburgh added GPS technology to its plowing operations back in 2010 and launched a slick-looking tracking website last year.
A screenshot of Pittsburgh’s snowplow tracker website from January 2016. (Jim Saksa/WHYY)
Allentown started tracking its plows internally back in 2013, though it hasn’t launched a public website.
Keep in mind that just because a road was recently plowed, it’s not necessarily a good idea to drive, especially in a blizzard like the one predicted this weekend, said PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt.
Indeed, she suggests that if the forecasts are right this weekend, you “just cozy up at home.”
Editor’s note: This post has been modified to reflect that PennDOT uses plows with tracking devices mostly on interstates and expressways.