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Behind the Wheel with a VDOT Snow Plow Driver

January 22, 2014

The roads are mostly clear around Central Virginia following Tuesday’s snow storm, but they didn’t clear up by magic. Snow plows got out there and began treating the roads before the first flake fell, now it’s time to finish the job.

Driving a snow plow is no easy task. They are typically the first ones on the road during a storm and getting through the snow can be tough.

“You'll go to go up a hill and it's just too slick,” says Duane Johnson from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). “You have to turn around and back up the hill.”

Johnson has been working for VDOT for 35 years now and he has seen his share of snow storms.

“I guess the worst snow I remember is 2009, because there wasn't enough help,” explains Johnson. “That was a hard one.”

The main roads and highways get treated very quickly after a snow storm, but what many VDOT operators are working on now are those secondary and dirt roads.

Before heading out, snow plow drivers have to load the truck with gravel in order to lay it down on the dirt roads around the various counties.

“You don't want to put salt on dirt roads like you do asphalt, because it will make them break up,” says Johnson. “So we just put a little gravel on it, just so they'll have a little grip for their tires.”

The gravel helps to create traction, so cars don't slip and slide going up or down a hill. The roads could be asphalt, gravel, or dirt, but these trucks take care of the roads.

As a driver with three decades of experience Johnson knows it's important to take it slow.

“Even though you have four-wheel drive, you need to drive like you don't have it and take your time.”

So whether it's a blizzard or a light dusting, we'll know that VDOT crews are out there helping to make the roads safe.

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