Iowa DOT Prepares Its Fleet, Staff for Winter Travel Season

Wed November 27, 2019 - Midwest Edition #24
Iowa DOT


The Iowa DOT is strategically making the switch from construction maintenance activities to preparing its equipment, materials and staffing for the needs of the winter travel season.
(Iowa DOT photo)
The Iowa DOT is strategically making the switch from construction maintenance activities to preparing its equipment, materials and staffing for the needs of the winter travel season. (Iowa DOT photo)

Another Iowa winter is around the corner. Mid-October signals the official beginning of the winter season for the Iowa Department of Transportation. Using data collected from previous winter events, the Iowa DOT is working to take a proactive approach to help keep everyone moving safely this winter.

How the Iowa DOT Prepares for Winter Travel Season

The Iowa DOT is strategically making the switch from construction maintenance activities to preparing its equipment, materials and staffing for the needs of the winter travel season. The department's 101 maintenance garages employ 1,062 full-time equipment operators, mechanics and supervisors, in addition to more than 600 temporary employees, to keep the agency's 902 trucks, 42 motorgraders, 27 tow plows and 11 heavy-duty, self-propelled snowblowers on the road during a winter weather event.

The Iowa DOT has spent the warmer months stocking salt in storage facilities for use during the winter. Buying during the spring and summer allows it to obtain better pricing because demand is low. On average, the Iowa DOT uses more than 140,121 tons of salt and 28 million gal. of brine each year to help maintain safe travel on the more than 9,500 lane-miles of the primary highway system, consisting of interstate, U.S., and Iowa routes.

The Iowa DOT uses salt brine, a simple solution of standard rock salt and water, to help with winter roadway maintenance. It can be used to pretreat roadways before a storm, thus preventing snow and ice from sticking to the pavement. Brine also is used to prewet salt before it leaves the truck, increasing its ability to melt snow and ice and helps keep it on the roadway surface.

Frost is a major safety factor this time of year. The Iowa DOT's proactive approach of spraying brine on areas prone to frost prevents the formation of an icy layer, which typically occurs on cold, clear nights. Frost is hard to see on the road's surface and most people don't expect it. These unexpected encounters with a frost-covered bridge or roadway can be particularly treacherous when traveling at higher rates of speed, making it more difficult to maintain control.