As winter looms in the distance, ODOT prepares to keep the roads safe

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Across the state, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is conducting safety checks on snowplows and equipment, hiring seasonal drivers and mechanics, and topping off salt supplies to ensure it is ready to go when the first hints of winter arrive. The average first day of measurable snow in Ohio ranges from early November in the northern portion of the state to late November for southern Ohio.

“Maintaining Ohio’s highways is a year-round job for ODOT, and it’s never too early for crews to start thinking about winter travel,” said Governor DeWine. “It takes a great deal of planning and coordination before the snow falls to help ensure that roads stay clear during and after each storm.”

The agency utilizes nearly 3,000 drivers who often work 12-hour shifts during snow and ice events. While most are full-time drivers, about 500 drivers are hired seasonally. This team maintains more than 43,000 lane miles of state and U.S. routes outside municipalities and all interstates in Ohio, except the Ohio Turnpike.

In addition to full-time and seasonal drivers, ODOT also uses auxiliary drivers. These auxiliary drivers are full-time ODOT employees who normally do other tasks and only plow snow when needed.

“When people think of ODOT, one of the first things that comes to mind is snow and ice operations. From the mechanics to the snowplow drivers, our crews are second to none,” said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks.

ODOT’s goal is to have primary routes back up to speed within 2 hours and secondary routes within 4 hours of the end of a snow event. Last winter, crews hit that goal 98% percent of the time.

While the department continues efforts to recruit plow drivers and mechanics, around 250 mechanics are busy doing 150-point checks from the plow blade to the salt spinner of each of the more than 1,600 trucks in the fleet statewide. These checks are done now so that any repairs can be made before the snow starts flying and the trucks hit the road.

In addition to trucks and personnel, ODOT is ready for this winter with more than 776,000 tons of salt on hand.

Last winter, crews drove 4.9 million miles using nearly 414,000 tons of salt and more than 11 million gallons of liquid deicers.

A total of 26 plow trucks were struck last winter, down from 61 the previous winter. When these crashes occur, it takes important snow-fighting equipment off the road, forcing other plows in the area to extend their routes. It is very important that drivers give crews plenty of room to work.