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North Dakota launches ‘Track-A-Plow’ program for motorists

January 19, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota’s Transportation Department has launched a pilot program to provide more information about snowplows to motorists.

The state sees 2 to 4 feet of snow in an average winter, and plows are a common site on roads following storms. The state has 350 of them.

The “Track-A-Plow” program uses technology that shows real-time information about snowplows, such as where they’re located, which direction they’re headed and how fast they’re going.

“This is one more piece of information that travelers can use to see what is happening on the highways and make more informed decisions when making travel plans,” state Transportation Director Tom Sorel said.

Department officials said the technology has other benefits, including showing the location of the nearest snowplow in an emergency, such as an ambulance needing to get through a snow-blocked road. It also will help the department with such things as diagnostics information on snowplow engines.

“It’s a pretty powerful program,” State Maintenance Engineer Brad Darr said. “There’s quite a bit more behind the scenes than just showing location.”

The $13,000 cost of the pilot program, which includes a monthly payment to Verizon, is being paid through the department’s regular operating budget. The technology is automated and requires little staff time, according to Brian Bieber, the department’s senior programmer and analyst.

The pilot project running through the end of winter involves 47 snowplows. The program is modeled after systems used in some other states, including Iowa and Pennsylvania. It might be expanded in North Dakota in coming years, according to Darr. The cost of doing that hasn’t been tabulated.

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