Relentless snow taking its toll on plow trucks

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FARMINGTON — In many Utah neighborhoods, the past few weeks have been the snowiest stretch residents have seen in years.

Piles of snow are growing, and crews along the Wasatch Front are doing their best to keep the plows on the roads. But all that around-the-clock work takes a toll on the trucks.

"Being a relative newcomer to Utah, these are the winters I've heard about," said Kirk Schmalz, who has served as Davis County's director of public works for the past six years.

Schmalz said his trucks have worked every day over the last 2 1/2 weeks. Even when it wasn't snowing, his drivers were busy putting salt down to keep the fog from freezing on the roads.

"The roads were slick (because of the fog)," Schmalz said. "In fact, sometimes they were even slicker than they would have been with just a snowfall."


With all that work, equipment fails. In Layton Monday, a plow truck caught fire after being overworked.

Davis County has experienced similar problems.

"Five years ago, we burned a truck completely down; a hydraulic line broke next to the exhaust," Schmalz said.

"Yesterday, we had a plow that broke off the mainframe of the truck," he added. "We brought it in, welded it, and fixed it back on the truck and got it out there on the road again. But, yeah, they break."

The Utah Department of Transportation has also spent a good amount of money on repairs to its trucks. So far this winter season, the state has spent more than $1.3 million on maintenance and repairs on its 510 plow trucks.

The state also bought more than 2,600 plow blades for those trucks for a total of $850,000.

Knowing damage will occur and money will be needed to make repairs, snowplow agencies budget for the mishaps. Schmalz said they also consider cycles of relentless snow, cold and foggy conditions normal for winter — even if the combination makes their work a bit more challenging.

While conditions are tough on the drivers as well as the equipment, Schmalz said his employees are up to the challenge.

"We count on those guys," he said. "They're the ones that make it all work."


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Jed Boal


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