Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Work Zone Safety

Snowplow facts

MnDOT plow truck operator plows snow on the roads.

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  • MnDOT plows 30,585 miles of state highways and interstates in Minnesota. One mile of a four-lane road equals four lane miles. The Twin Cities Metro area has 4,087 lane miles that MnDOT maintains.
  • MnDOT has more than 1,800 full-time and part-time snowplow drivers. All operators are required to have a valid Class B commercial driver’s license. MnDOT also provides extensive two-week training for new operators each year at Camp Ripley, Minn., and annual refresher training for veteran plow drivers.
  • MnDOT has 840 snowplows, including reserve trucks that provide backup if a snowplow needs maintenance or is damaged.
  • MnDOT has 150 truck stations statewide, with 19 of those in the Twin Cities Metro area.
  • Fully equipped trucks weigh as much as 15 times more than an average car.
  • A single-axle plow (one set of wheels in the back) can weigh up to 50,000 pounds when loaded. A new single-axle truck costs $170,000.
  • A tandem-axle plow (two sets of wheels in the back) can weigh more than 70,000 pounds when loaded. A new tandem truck costs $210,000.

Snow removal techniques

MnDOT's snow removal program sets goals based on public safety and driver expectations. MnDOT uses market research to determine how quickly the public expects roads to be cleared when setting a performance goal.

Snow removal performance can vary depending on moisture content of the snow, weather conditions and timing of the snow fall. A snowfall that occurs before and during a rush hour will cause more problems than snow falling from midnight to 3 a.m. Heavy, wet snow followed by a cold snap will require more time to clear than dry snow.

MnDOT primarily uses two materials to improve roadway safety and inhibit ice formation:

  • Salt – Melts snow and ice on roads when road surface temperatures are below freezing. Salt loses its effectiveness as temperatures drop.
  • Sand – Increases traction for motorists on slippery roads, mostly used at intersections and ramps. It may also be used in extreme cold temperatures when salt is less effective.

The following techniques help MnDOT be more efficient and use less salt and sand, which reduces our impact on the environment.

  • Anti-icing – Generally refers to applying liquid salt brine to the road surface just before or early in a snowfall event. This prevents precipitation from bonding to the road surface.
  • Pre-wetting – A treatment to rock salt or sand that involves applying liquid salt brine or other commercial chemical solutions to the salt or sand mixture. Pre-wetting the salt allows the salt to activate more quickly and cause it to stick to the road surface instead of blowing off to the shoulder and ditch.
  • De-icing – Uses chemical or mechanical means to break the bond that has formed between the ice and road surface.