- Kristin Kammueller
Community Relations Coordinator
- Kristine Hernandez
TZD Coordinator/ Public Affairs Team Leader
Minnesota Department of
Rochester District 6
2900 48th Street
Rochester, MN 55901
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Snowplow simulator provides additional training for MnDOT snow fighters
ROCHESTER, Minn. – More than 180 MnDOT snow fighters in southeastern Minnesota will complete additional training in February using a state-of-the-art snowplow simulator that can create nearly any roadway emergency, traffic or weather condition without ever leaving the shop.
The mobile unit replicates the view from inside a plow using three 42-inch flat screen plasma monitors, and includes almost everything but a coffee holder. The software that accompanies the simulator allows drivers to practice hundreds of plowing scenarios, from two-lane highways and rural areas, to interstates and city streets, in daylight and nighttime.
The simulator site schedule/locations are as follows:
- Feb. 1-10 – Owatonna
- Feb. 21-23 – Rushford
- Feb. 27 - March 2 – Rochester
County and city crews across southeastern Minnesota will also take part in the training.
MnDOT has two simulator units permanently housed in the metro area and a mobile unit containing two simulators that travels around the state. The mobile unit comes to southeastern Minnesota about once each year. This session, drivers will evaluate their general skills and knowledge in managing speed, space, fuel usage, turning, maneuvering and their ability to back a large truck through various hazardous conditions.
MnDOT employee Scott Allen is a trainer in southeastern Minnesota. “The simulators allow us to create many real-life hazards and complicated situations for the drivers. I can throw the different scenarios at them and see what decisions they make, how they react, see the end results and ask them what they would do differently next time,” Allen said.
Dashboard controls adjust the virtual mirrors, strobe lights, snowplow blades, salt spreader and ventilation. The steering wheel gives sensory feedback to indicate a rumble strip if the driver strays too far out of a lane or a tire blows. 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. Since the training program began in November 2008, more than 4,200 snow fighters have attended sessions.
Editor’s Note: Training will be cancelled during winter weather events for crews to respond to road conditions, and the schedule will adjust accordingly.