‘You get hit by a truck, it’s a lot bigger problem’: Hazards for plow drivers this weekend

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Heavy snow is set for this weekend, which means a busy day for plow drivers. County officials said the combination of snow and wind could prove hazardous and frustrating for workers.

Drivers can reduce their stress by being patient and giving the plows space. It may seem safer to draft behind a plow truck clearing the snow, but most of their vehicles do not have back windows.

“If you slide off the road you’re stuck in a ditch, you get hit by a truck it's a lot bigger problem,” Hancock County Highway Director and Engineer Gary Pool said.

After 16 nerve racking hours of straight plowing, drivers can lose their effectiveness, which can lead to mistakes as the snow drifts and their eyes grow weary.

“I’m an engineer. I’m a nerd about data. They study this,” Pool said. “If you start driving more than 14 or 16 hours, I don’t care how good a driver you are, or how much experience, you become tired.”

Hancock County, and some other counties, have their drivers on rotating shifts to reduce drive time and stress.  Pool said the county could add more trucks, creating a better rotation, but that is not fiscally responsible for his county.  He said some rural counties have to make choices, and the math tends to lead toward road maintenance over extra snow coverage for larger storms.

“I have enough trucks to maintain two crews running 24 hours a day,” Pool said. “Now the downside to that, we come up on a big storm now and then. The commissioners try to balance it to make sure we provide a good snow coverage without spending all the money in the bank."

Hancock County uses a GPS system to map where every truck has gone through, so if you think they have skipped your road, be patient, they are either getting to it, or the snow has blown back on the road.

“25 MPH winds, maybe 3-10 minutes, [snow drifts onto the road]," Pool said. "20-30 minutes it's filled in.”

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