JEFFERSON CITY (MNN) – All Missouri Department of Transportation snow plows and material spreaders now include a GPS tracking system. The device shows which roads have been treated and which ones might need so TLC.
The state agency began testing the system in 2020 on about 1,200 trucks and expanded the program this season to reach its roughly 3,500 winter operations trucks.
Becky Allmeroth, MoDOT’s chief safety and operations officer, says the technology is even more valuable as the department deals with a significant workforce shortage and COVID-19 infections among staff.
“In order to fill those gaps whenever you have quite a few people missing in a building, we shift resources from other places. And sometimes those new drivers, to come in to take on additional routes, aren’t familiar with those routes and it’s really easy to accidentally skip a route in that situation,” Allmeroth tells Missourinet.
She says MoDOT lacks several hundred drivers for its winter operations and another 200 workers are out due to the coronavirus.
Allmeroth says the system has helped the department with efficiency.
“We want to make sure that we don’t have any roads that fall through the cracks,” she says. “So it gives us a very, very quick visual. It shows us the roads that have been treated within the last four hours, those that have been treated within the last eight hours and those that haven’t been touched in an eight-hour time period. So really, really great situational awareness and shows us where we need to shift resources.”
The system alerts MoDOT’s mechanics when a truck has a maintenance problem.
“It’s so much better to catch one of those situations or something wrong with the truck while it’s a small problem before it really does major damage to the truck. So that in itself saves a lot of wear and tear on our vehicles and a lot of more costly repairs. Return on investment, it was more than two to one. These really are cost effective devices, especially when we worked off of a contract with the entire state of all the different features and just helps with efficiency and save taxpayer dollars,” says Allmeroth.
It also has several safety features.
“We’ve cut those instances of speeding and seatbelt usage – or non-seatbelt usage, those at-risk behaviors. We’ve more than cut those in half. So that’s really on the safety side of the house where our biggest return is going to be,” she says. “And it’s not intended to be kind of a gotcha system or big brother watching. We actually give alerts into the cab so that the drivers can change their behavior on the spot. It’s been very effective at really making sure that we are reducing some of those at-risk behaviors that could put our operators or even the public at-risk, which is really, really been a big benefit.”