Iowa tests laser-guided snowplows

| 12/3/2008

Iowa has joined a growing number of states that are trying out a new, high-tech method of plowing snow. They’re using a laser beam that projects a green dot about 60 feet ahead on the right-hand shoulder, which shows the driver where the so-called “wing plow” is headed.

The wing plow is an extension to the main plow, and it’s often hard for plow drivers to see exactly where it is or to judge safe clearance. Dennis Burkheimer, the Iowa DOT’s winter operations administrator, told Reed Black on Land Line Now that not knowing where the wing plow is can get expensive.

“The wings that we put on our plows are about $10,000 to $11,000 apiece, so … these types of devices might be able to help us save any damage to a wing, any damage to a bridge or other devices,” Burkheimer said.

Compared to the cost of a new wing plow, Burkheimer says the laser devices cost about $2,400.

USA Today reported that the Iowa DOT has also been exploring other technology to help combat winter storms, such as automated weather stations at 62 sites along state highways to generate online data such as air temperatures, pavement temperatures, and wind speeds and direction.

– Staff Writer Reed Black contributed to this report.