Iowa DOT Office of Maintenance Snow Plow Optimization

Project Details







Federal Highway Administration State Planning and Research Funding
Iowa Department of Transportation

Principal Investigator
Jing Dong

Transportation Engineer, CTRE

Co-Principal Investigator
Neal Hawkins

Associate Director, InTrans

About the research

Winter road maintenance includes the removal of snow and ice on roadways and spreading materials for anti-icing, de-icing or increasing friction. The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for plowing 24,000 lane miles. Each road segment has different expectations as far as how often a plow must pass. The plow run length is limited by the capacity of the truck and the availability of nearby garages or reload stations.

Current plow routes have been developed through past experience and conditions. To reduce deadhead distance and meet the changing service expectations, an optimization based approach is desired to design snow plow routes. In addition, a new scenario (or business model) will be developed which considers the benefits of more flexible service sector boundaries. By allowing trucks to plow and reload with more flexibility, further improvements in operational efficiencies are anticipated.

The objective of this project is to develop routing algorithms for snow plow operations. First, the research team will analyze current garage locations and available equipment to find a general route map that would work in most situations and under current configurations. Second, a new set of route maps will be developed by allowing trucks from different garages to plow the same road segment and reload at the most convenient garage or reload stations. A proof of concept analysis will be conducted for District 3. A future plan will be proposed to extend the work to other districts, as well as to the entire state.

This work is expected to have immediate implementation for both central office and district operations managers.