Wing Plow Practices

Original Message: (SICOP Snow and Ice List-Serve, 2011)

A few years ago, our management banned the use of wing plows in active
traffic lanes due to several severe accidents within weeks of each other.
All of the accidents involved vehicles driving into the wing plow while it was
down in a lane. Just out of curiosity, does anyone else limit the use of
wing plows to just shoulders? Does anyone have some best practices (lighting
configurations, reflective tape, etc.) for making the wing more visible?

- Tim Croze, Michigan Department of Transportation (crozet@michigan.gov)

Response Messages

(12 responses)

We have wings on everything (some even have two), and we don't limit their use to shoulders. They can use them anywhere they need to. We don't have a lot of accidents with other vehicles with them, but "wing slaps" (when the front of the wing fetches up and swings the back part up) are more common than we would like them to be. We have used reflectors on them and had tried lights at one time, but the lights took a beating out there. The new LED lights may work better though. I'm also thinking that maybe a strip or two of that 3M LDS guardrail marker stuff may delineate them pretty well.

- Brian Burne, Maine Department of Transportation (brian.burne@maine.gov)

We do not have any restrictions, even though they get hit all the time. We also have no best practices. If I surveyed the counties, I'm sure I'd find out that we have 72 best practices. Sorry I can't help you out.

- Mike Sproul, Wisconsin Department of Transportation (michael.sproul@dot.state.wi.us)

We have wings on about 75% of our trucks. In rural areas, they are primarily used on the shoulder. I received the following from Dale Butler, our district operations and maintenance manager in our most urban district that includes Omaha ... "We only allow the wing plow on the hard surface of the roadway, unless two people are in the truck, then they can plow the dirt shoulder. We have used them for 10 years. We only had one hit by a car, and it was our fault because the operator let it down on the fender of a car. We have had some that have hit bridge walls and expansion joints and have damaged the wing, but not a lot. We use an LED beacon on the out most end of the wing, and it is very visible to traffic. We use left and right wings. Normally the left wing is only plowing the left lane and left shoulder. The right wing does plow in the traffic lane normally in a tandem plowing operations on multiple lane freeways".

- Mike Mattison, Nebraska Department of Roads (mike.mattison@nebraska.gov)

Wyoming DOT has mid-mount wing plows. The districts determine how many left or right side wing plows they need in service. Left side plows are used for interstates only. They are not restricted in there use, but most of the operators only use them on the shoulders. Final clean up after the storm is done with the front plow.

- Cliff Spoonemore, Wyoming Department of Transportation (cliff.spoonemore@wyo.gov)

We usually do not allow an "exposed" wing in a travel lane. If the right wing or left wing is down in a travel lane, we will have another plow truck behind it in close echelon. There are circumstances when a wing is exposed that are unavoidable (e.g. when a turning lane/exit ramp develops), but that is usually limited. We do have some bright orange tape on the back side of the wing, but it often becomes obscured by snow collecting on the wing and support arms. We also use tubular plow markers and shine a spotlight on the wing in some cases.

- Mike Lashmet, New York State Department of Transportation (mlashmet@dot.state.ny.us)

Illinois does not ban the use of wing plows in lanes, however, the vast majority of our use of wing plows involves clearing shoulders or ramps. We use both full benching wings that are mounted in front of the truck and midmount wings. The preferred lighting on the midmount wings has been cab mounted, but there is debate as to the correct height on the cab for the lighting. We don't have a standard for wing lighting, as each of our districts seems to have different approaches based on their specific application.

- Tim Peters, Illinois Department of Transportation (tim.peters@illinois.gov)

We place wings on almost all of our new trucks. We currently have about 1/3 of our fleet with wings. We like them and think they work very good. We have had some issues with collisions. Typically they are collisions with guardrail, mailboxes, sign supports, and occasionally the motoring public. Generally, the collisions with the motoring public are the fault of the motoring public and not our operators. We have found that the more wings we have and the more they are used, the more our employees are getting used to them, and the incidents are decreasing. We are also experimenting with lasers on the wings to project a "line of sight" of the wing. We are also placing cameras on some trucks to see the location of the wing. Both seem to work well, and our operators like both the lasers and the cameras. We also place a light on the back of the wing so that the public can see the wing when it is down.

- Larry Gangl, North Dakota Department of Transportation (lgangl@nd.gov)

Over 60% (around 1,500) of our dump trucks have wing plows. We do not restrict where wings can be used. We have a continuing problem of vehicles running into the rear (including wing plows) of our dump trucks during winter services. We have updated the 2010 dump truck lighting to all LED flashing lights, installed the "inverted v" high visibility tape, etc. for added visibility to closing vehicles. As far as wings are concerned, we added an LED red plow light at the end of the wing. We install conspicuity tape and also illuminate the plow on some wings (optional) with a spreader light (just a sealed beam white light). We have tried orange poles on the end of wing plows (to help the operator judge the location of the plow) and also concave mirrors. We are piloting two of the laser light guidance systems. We also put all of our operators through a wing plow training class. They are still hitting fixed objects, but raining has really reduced incidence of accidents.

- Charlie Goodhart, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (cgoodhart@pa.gov)

We have a long history of accidents also, but due to financial issues and the need to do "more with less", we have gone back to them. Last year we had about 50-60 wings. This year we have over 400. We have not had any issues and have indicated to the vendors that they are in need of strobe lights, reflective tape, and tight plow batteries. The combination has allowed us to be more effective. We have had several small incidents this year, but nothing to raise a red flag. We use them all over the place (Interstates, secondary, left, right, and in combination). The plan is to have another 200-250 for next year.

- Paul Brown, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (paul.brown@state.ma.us)

Utah DOT does not restrict use of either left- or right-hand wings. We use them everywhere (freeways, arterials, city streets, two-lane rural roads, etc.).

- Lynn Bernhard, Utah Department of Transportation (lynnbernhard@utah.gov)

I forwarded your question to Ryan Otte, who works for me in Maintenance Research and used to drive snow plows. His response back to me was ... "No, we do not limit the use of wing plows to only shoulders. I was actually hit by a semi in the wing and almost wrecked my plow truck while we were in a gang plow operation. He was determined that he was going to get ahead of us. I won. His truck was destroyed, but I went for a hell of a ride and ended up in the ER because I put my head through the driver's side door window. There are some lights out there that work great on the wings, and we have not implemented these to date (statewide), but we should. There are a hand full of trucks in the state with these lights on them, with no accidents to date. This is something we should really incorporate on our plow trucks". Given his current position and his past experience, I place a lot of value in this information that you should feel comfortable looking into. Here is a link to the wing light: http://www.whelen.com/install/138/13878.pdf.

- Tom Peters, Minnesota Department of Transportation (tom.peters@state.mn.us)

We typically do not use wing plows.

- Allen Williams, Virginia Department of Transportation (allen.williams@virginiadot.org)