Keeping the public happy during snow removal season

Local government bodies have many reasons to invest in fleet management software during the winter months. The ability to successfully carry out routine activities such as snow removal and salting can make or break an administration's political reputation. As climate change makes global weather patterns more unpredictable, towns that aren't used to organizing plow schedules may find it especially difficult to keep operations running as smoothly as possible in the event of a major storm. With fleet software, the process of keeping track of a large number of snowplows and other trucks involved in street maintenance becomes much more manageable.

Winter storms present a variety of dangers to local roadways. This month has already created a long list of challenges for cities around the U.S. According to The Atlantic Wire, a major storm system produced historic snowfall levels in places as far south as Dallas. Roadway conditions have a major impact on overall public infrastructure, which makes snow and ice removal efforts all the more important in the public setting.

Meeting demand with limited resources
The Carson Valley Times, a news publication based in Nevada, highlighted the many efforts of the Douglas County Public Works (DCPW) to eliminate black ice, excessive snow drifts, visibility issues and other hazards. With only a small staff of drivers and employees, staying on top of these responsibilities can be a challenging process - especially when weather systems dump several inches of snow over a short time period. Misconceptions about how the city conducts its plow system can also lead to negative public sentiment.

"I think the biggest misconception people have is that as soon as snow starts to fall, we are out there with the plows," Chris Oakden, maintenance operations superintendent at DCPW, told theTimes. "Our policy states we send out the crews at 4 inches of accumulated snow on the roads. We have a small staff and they are allowed to work 12 hour shifts with the Federal Regulations on Commercial Drivers, and that includes standby time."

In fact, failed snow removal efforts in other cities have even caused mayors to be ousted from their seats. According to the online publication Chicago Now, a blizzard rattled the city in 1979, but the city's maintenance fleet was unable to sufficiently plow neighborhood streets. The roads were such a mess that voters remembered the fiasco during the mayoral election later that year, in which incumbent Mayor Michael Bilandic lost to Jane Byrne.

Greater scrutiny from the public
In recent years, municipalities have taken significant strides in holding themselves accountable for snow removal. Advancements in technology have not only increased transparency for the public, but it has also improved the efficiency of these complex operations. The online news publicationReston Patch, which is based in Reston, Va., said the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is implementing a new service this year that allows residents of cities throughout the state to track local snowplow activity online in the event that there are more than 2 inches of snow on the ground. VDOT will also be using a similar initiative to resolve power outages during severe storms.

On the internal end of operations, municipal fleet managers can benefit from leveraging logistics software during the winter. At a time when many state and local government bodies are limiting spending to fend off crippling budget issues, the ability to perform complex, yet essential, maintenance tasks with utmost efficiency is a major priority. With increased scrutiny from the public, snow removal programs need all of the resources they can get to ensure work is completed effectively. Fleet management software can easily transform an under-resourced staff into a well-oiled machine that is able to meet the many challenges presented by winter storm systems. Whether it's laying salt down on roads in anticipation of ice or plowing parking lots and neighborhood streets to limit the delays involved with rush hour traffic, automated technology is a reliable investment that can produce positive results in the long run.

Municipal bodies don't have to put their political reputations on the line during the winter. Fleet management software is a simple investment that can make it easier to manage many complicated tasks.