Dec. 28, 2000
GPS latest ally in war on winter snow, ice
The highway industry has long referred to the process of snow and ice control with military connotations, hence the phrase, "snow and ice fighting". Until recently the logistics of orchestrating the "battle" was done with the aid of paper, Post-It notes, radio, magnetic boards and a lot of coffee. Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, which will provide Desert-Storm style command and control, is emerging into this industry. Most governmental agencies continually are faced with doing more with less. GPS Command and Control System by Tyler ICE, is one of the tools to have emerged.

This system includes a GPS receiver located within the cab of the vehicle. The GPS is connected into a radio for transmitting data back to the base office system. The base station has a software package that receives pertinent data from several vehicles at the same time, all mobile within the field, and displays vital information on a computer monitor. This real-time command and control is designed to allow the fleet manager to better communicate key data to all members of the team.

The base station is able to know if the plow is up or down, if chemical/sand is being spread, how long the driver has been in service, the speed of travel, real-time location of the vehicle, and numerous other items. Color coding can be added to distinguish between different types of vehicles, allowing the fleet manager to easily deploy the right equipment to the needed location. It is estimated that over half of all radio transmissions involve discussions of locations and current vehicle statuses. This technology will reduce this tedious task, allowing the operators to focus on the job at hand.

Not only is this a real-time system, but it also becomes a historical-recording system of each storm-fighting effort. Drivers and management alike are able to analyze their mode of operation long after the storm has passed. Efficiencies, as well as storm-to-storm comparisons will elevate the precision by which crews tackle different types of storms.

It is widely believed this and other technologies being tested in several states will redefine the current "truck driver" into more of a snow-and-ice fighting "technician". This movement toward a technician-level operator may slow the trend toward privatization in many states. One state official noted, "We can easily get drivers from the contractors, but trained technicians, and their inherent efficiencies and higher quality of operation, will not be so easily picked up from the local contractor truck drivers."

About the Author

David Banasiak