Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

News Release

February 1, 2016

Orange barrels on a highway

Snow fighters sharpen their skills on the big screen

MnDOT snowplow simulator arrives in northwestern Minn.

BEMIDJI, Minn. – More than 130 snow fighters in northwestern Minnesota will complete additional snowplow training over the next month using a state-of-the-art snowplow simulator that can create nearly any roadway emergency, traffic or weather condition without ever leaving the shop.

In addition to MnDOT snowplow operators, county and city crews from across northwestern Minnesota will also take part in the training. The simulator site schedule/locations are as follows:

  • Feb. 2-3, 9-10 – Bemidji
  • Feb. 17-18 – Roseau
  • Feb. 23-24 – Thief River Falls
  • Mar. 1-2 – Crookston
  • Mar. 8-9 – Walker

The mobile unit is housed in a 32-foot trailer, with a classroom slide out, and replicates the view from inside a plow using two 55-inch monitors.

“The controls are the actual ones used on a MnDOT snowplow,” said Andrew Kubista, driving simulator program manager. “The simulator is where we can make the mistakes, learn from them and there are no damages,”

The simulator software can be programmed for all types of situations, from blizzard conditions to roundabouts and allows drivers to practice hundreds of plowing scenarios, from two-lane highways and rural areas, to interstates and city streets, in daylight and nighttime.

Dashboard controls adjust the virtual mirrors, strobe lights, snowplow blades, salt spreader and ventilation. Drivers must maintain an awareness of the vehicle, the road and the environment in front of them at all times. Conditions can be changed at any time by the trainer. The simulator also focuses on another dangerous everyday hazard - other motorists. Trainers can control actions of other vehicles driving near the snowplows during the simulations and recreate real-life motorist behaviors.

The simulators reduce training costs by not using real trucks and fuel. The drivers are also prepared for weather conditions that would be difficult and dangerous to replicate in a real truck experience.

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To learn more about funding Minnesota’s transportation system, visit Get Connected at www.dot.state.mn.us/getconnected