By K C Pawling, Road Safety and Loss Prevention Specialist

When the weather outside is frightful, the road departments are sometimes given the opportunity to demonstrate their skills regarding snow and ice removal. I remember as new road department employee, being excited about moving snow. It was something new and different, and I really enjoyed the fresh snows that had no wind with them. Just a beautiful 6-8” snow laying like a thick white blanket. Running the machine through it and just letting it roll off the end of the moldboard, leaving the road freshly plowed clean. No wind blowing the snow back onto the finished product, leaving it perfect for the first motorist to appreciate it. I really did enjoy it for a couple years until the winter of 2009-10. After that winter season, all the excitement was gone.

As road department employees we also know that we might have the opportunity to spend our holidays away from our families so that other’s families can make it to their celebrations as safely as possible. So, while you are at work instead of the family Christmas celebration, we need to make sure that we have done everything possible to get us home safely.

Equipment maintenance is essential in cold weather. If anything is going to breakdown, it seems like the cold weather will make it happen. The following items on machines should be checked, replaced or even extra maintenance practiced making sure you have a safe day or night of clearing roads.

  • All signage in place and good repair – slow moving and stay back signs.
  • Lighting – strobes, 4-way flashers, and headlights.
  • Tires – Do you have spares available if needed? I experienced one year that was cold enough making the tires stiff and when operators would turn around, the tires would blow the O-rings causing flats.
  • Fuel and fuel system – Correct fuel and additives used? Do you have the fuel filters and water separators serviced? Are there enough spare filters available?
  • Electrical system – Batteries and charging system. Weak batteries can cause the charging system to work harder than needed, leaving potential for a stall without being able to restart. Hopefully you are running with all your lights on too, adding even more load.
  • Engine coolant system – This is important to keep your engine at optimal operating temperature, but this can also affect your in-cab heating.
  • Cab filters – are they clean, free of debris?
  • Engine filters – clean and have replacements available?
  • Engine belts and hoses – Are they in good repair and spares available?
  • Hydraulic systems – hoses in good repair, leaks repaired?
  • In cab signals and diagnostics – all warning lights addressed; buzzers work appropriately?
  • Adequately stocked first aid kit.
  • Phone chargers and two-way radios in good repair?

Along with the items listed above, a couple other things to think about. One of those things is between snow removal activities, it is a good idea to get your machines melted off and washed up. This will allow you to see the condition of your machines, it will also slow the corrosion of the machine from the ice removal products that are used. Second, take appropriate clothing along. I understand that you may not want to wear a heavy coat all day while operating the machine but plan for failure.

This is just a small article, hopefully getting you to think about some actions that can be taken to make your winter responsibilities a little safer. There are many other things that should be thought about and considered. We all owe it to our families to take the extra time to BE and think safe. Let’s make sure we all make it home at night!

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, I can be reached at or 402-310-4417. Please have a very Merry Christmas!