Largest fleet in the state
Wayne County has at its disposal the largest vehicle fleet of any county in Michigan. With recent improvements, it is also the youngest, largest and most diverse snow removal fleet the County has ever had. Here is a snapshot:
New trucks. Approximately 160 salt trucks, which include more than 40 new ones purchased in 2000-01. Today, the average age of a county salt truck is eight years, while 80 percent of the fleet is no older than five years. In 1999, Wayne County had a high percentage of trucks that were 13-15 years old. This meant less time lost to mechanical failures. And since the County has more trucks than routes, it means that several trucks can be in for maintenance or repair without causing a single route to be missed.
New high-speed plows
In 2000, Wayne County purchased 14 new high-speed plows for use in rural areas. These plows can throw snow up to 75 feet from the road, which helps keep the road and its shoulders clear more effectively
Oshkosh Snow-Go. Wayne County purchased this vehicle from Houghton County in the upper peninsula and is the only county in southeast Michigan to own one. Think of it as a driving snowblower. The County uses this to clear areas that plows cannot reach, or to throw snow from a freeway shoulder onto the embankment, so stalled vehicles can have safe haven on the shoulder and not tie up an active lane of traffic.
Satellite Technology. Wayne County was the pioneer in adding Global Positioning Satellite technology to its salt trucks and is now part of a tri-county effort to equip all trucks from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, as well as the city of Detroit, with this advanced technology. Trucks fitted with the equipment can send back to the yard such information as air and pavement temperature, how much salt is being spread, if the plow is in use, as well as the vehicles location and direction. This information will be extremely useful to dispatchers who must make "on the fly" decisions about how to deploy their trucks as storm conditions change.
Because it has so many miles and types of roads to clear, the County has to prioritize its responsibilities. The two major factors in determining which roads are to be cleared first are speed limits and traffic volume. Since more vehicles and higher speeds are more likely to contribute to serious injury accidents, the roads that see the most traffic and have the highest speeds are the ones that get salted and plowed first.
The good news is that Wayne County is able to tend to all of its 462 miles of State freeways and trunklines AND all of its 700 miles of paved primary roads immediately from the beginning of a snowstorm.
In order to do this, the County has established approximately 130 individual salting/plowing routes that are addressed simultaneously from the time snow starts falling and sticking. Each driver knowing exactly where he or she is to be salting [even if it is not their normal route] allows the County to cover more than 1,100 miles of major roads in about 90 minutes. Of course, this can vary, depending on weather and traffic conditions. The effectiveness of the County's salt routes are re-evaluated each year and changes are made, when necessary, to provide improved service.
When one truck per route isn't enough
History shows us that more than 98 percent of snow "events" that occur in Wayne County bring fewer than six inches of snow, having one truck on each route is acceptable, well, 98 percent of the time. But as we have seen in recent years, Mother Nature likes to remind us who's the boss.
When enough snow falls that one truck per route is not able to effectively keep its route safe and clean, we have to reprioritize, which means consolidating more trucks onto fewer routes. Rather than having all of its routes insufficiently cleared, the County's approach will be to "Team Plow" its highest priority routes, which typically will be freeways and other state roads, as well as some of the most heavily traveled county roads.
While these trucks are able to make the high-priority routes clear much faster this way, it does mean that some of the lesser traveled primary roads will not see any attention for a period of time. But once the high-priority routes are cleared, the teams can be re-deployed to plow the second tier of roads.
IT IS THE COUNTY'S P0LICY THAT WORK WILL CONTINUE AROUND THE CLOCK FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES TO CLEAR ALL OF ITS MAJOR ROADS DOWN TO BARE PAVEMENT.
Next, the sidestreets
Once all of the 1,100-plus miles of major roads are cleared and safe, workers will begin to make their way into township subdivisions - if the accumulated snow has reached five or six inches. [Unlike townships, cities have their own snow removal program]. Crews will work continuously until each of its 700-plus miles of secondary streets has been plowed. Of course, because the county's competing responsibilities mean that it may take several days to reach the subdivisions, many communities choose to hire a contractor who will be able to respond more quickly. While this surely can be disappointing to residents along these streets, the county simple does not have the resources to fund another tier of snow removal forces.
Along the county's secondary roads, the county also places a priority on school bus routes and a four-point system called the RICH system, which stands for
- Railroad crossings
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