Snow Plow Simulator Teaches Drivers Safety

MnDOT Uses Simulator Year Round to Help Drivers Brush Up on Skills

DULUTH, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Transportation has a plow truck simulator they send around the state to train snow plow drivers.

From the outside, this may look like an ordinary trailer, but inside there is a state of the art plow driving simulator.

“The drivers get the opportunity every time we come around during a training cycle, they can pick up on that training and kind of re-hone their skills that maybe have gotten a little bit lax over the last few months,” says MnDOT transportation program specialist Brad Swartz.

Instructors use the simulator to teach drivers how to avoid hazards while plowing snow out on the roads.

“Anybody can put the plow down and go push snow around, but safety is the major issue out there,” says MnDOT transportation generalist Jason McPherson, who used the simulator today.

Pedestrians and other vehicles have to be avoided during the simulation.

“They have to make judgement calls very quickly,” says Swartz. “What’s the safest place to go? Where’s the best place I should take this massive truck?”

The simulator aims to re-create the real life obstacles plow drivers face.

“It’s as real as it could be,” says McPherson. “It’s kind of like a video game. The machine moves and gives you feedback on the steering wheel.”

MnDOT officials use the simulator to train drivers year round.

“They only experience snow plowing when it snows. In this case, we can plow in July, August, doesn’t matter,” says Swartz.

So plows can clear the roads as safely as possible whenever it’s needed.

“Be patient,” says McPherson. “We’re trying to make the roads safe for you.. If we were not out there doing what we do, you would not be able to drive your car at the speed limit when it’s snowing.

Minnesotans can now see current road conditions through MnDOT’s new cameras on some of their plows. Photos from the plow cams are displayed on their website for 2 hours and include the date, time, and location of the plow that took the photos.

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