This winter, if you see a snowplow in Southwest Colorado that looks like it’s jack-knifing, don’t be alarmed.
The Colorado Department of Transportation recently announced it will add two “tow plows” to its fleet, considered a significantly more efficient way to remove snow from roads.
“It may look like the snowplow is jackknifing,” Ronnie Medina, CDOT Alamosa maintenance supervisor, said in a prepared statement. “But the snowplow driver is actually swinging out the tow plow trailer to gain area and push as much snow as possible off the highway.”
Basically, a “tow plow” is a regular snowplow truck carrying a 10- to 12-foot blade that pulls a trailer equipped with another blade, which can clear an additional 12 feet of highway.
In total, one truck will be able to clear 22 feet of snow.
“We will be able to do more with less,” Medina said. “It will be a great advantage to clear more miles in less time.”
The total length of the snowplow truck and trailer is about 70 feet long. The “jack-knife” appearance comes into play when the driver deploys the trailer at an angle to more efficiently clear the road.
Lisa Schwantes, spokeswoman for CDOT, said the trailer with the additional snowplow retains traction because of the weight of two tanks on it, one carrying liquid de-icer and the other holding sand.
Schwantes said the new snowplows will be followed by a regular snowplow and a CDOT supervisor’s vehicle, just temporarily as the public becomes accustomed to the new equipment.
In the future, once the public is more comfortable and familiar with the tow plow trucks, it’s likely it will clear the road alone.
The two tow plows are a new addition to CDOT’s Region 5, which covers Southwest and south-central Colorado. However, the trucks have been used in other parts of the state since 2009.
The tow plows will be used on U.S. highways 160, 550, 285 and 50, which covers areas of Durango, Monte Vista, Alamosa, Blanca, Fort Garland, La Veta Pass, Poncha Springs and Salida.
Schwantes said CDOT’s Section 3 crew, within Region 5, which is specifically Southwest Colorado, now features 107 pieces of heavy equipment, of which 62 are snowplows.