GPS To Track County Plows...Next Year - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

GPS To Track County Plows...Next Year

SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. - A year from now, Spokane County residents may go online when snow falls to find out which roads have been plowed.

Some road graders and plow trucks are being equipped this winter with global positioning
system devices that show where road crews are and what they're doing. Officials plan to place some of the information online in the winter of 2011-'12, although probably not in real time. They don't want people approaching plow operators with demands for service.

County Commissioner Mark Richard is eager to reduce complaints by showing snowplowing progress on the Web. Using cellular telephone connections, the GPS units transmit the location of trucks and graders and whether they are plowing snow or spraying liquid de-icer.

A vehicle appears on supervisors' computer screens as a blip marking a line along a road.
The color of the line changes according to whether plow blades are down or nozzles are open.

De-icing trucks also have sensors for ambient and road-surface temperatures. Mounted on side mirrors, the sensors use infrared technology to detect surface temperature. County Engineer Bob Brueggeman said the temperature readings will help equipment operators decide whether to apply magnesium chloride de-icer.

He said the experiment began last December with the installation of five GPS units. "We see this as a possible management tool," he said. "We can go back and see whether we have a hiccup in our system or if it is a perception problem" when constituents complain that plow crews missed their roads.

Brueggeman said the equipment had been installed only about a week when a sheriff's
deputy requested information for a major collision investigation. Since April, equipment operators' concerns about disciplinary use of the system have been answered by piping all the data to their union hall, according to Brueggeman.

"We provided the same access that we have so they can see what we see,"
Brueggeman said. He expects all the trucks and graders in one of four road maintenance districts to be outfitted by the middle of next month.

This story is from our partners at The Spokesman Review

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