New Equipment Helps Road Crews Battle Winter Road Conditions

by Jill Kasparie, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Mother Nature has Iowans on a bit of a roller coaster ride this winter.

From double digit negative temperatures to warm days, road crews have had their hands full.

Cedar Rapids Public Works leaders said workers have used more than 4,200 tons of salt and 3,800 tons of sand this season. They said they've used up about half of it, which is expected at this point.

"It's been a pretty busy winter," said Public Works Street Operations Superintendent Mike Duff.

Recently, each day has been a different story. Snow came down on Saturday, but it all melted away with the Sunday warmth. As Old Man Winter brings on the heavy work load, workers are getting used to some new equipment that's helping to fight this winter battle.

"This here is pretty basic," said Heavy Equipment Operator Dennis Boeding.

The department now has six new trucks that it calls swap loaders. Crews said they're like five trucks in one.

"You just slide it off and hook those hoses up there and that's it," Boeding said.

Boeding is one operator who is already using the new trucks. He said you can use them for multiple functions. In just minutes the new trucks can switch from spreading salt, to hauling supplies and even spreading asphalt.

Street Operations Superintendent Mike Duffy said the new equipment solves a problem: The department has too many single-use vehicles, which is expensive and leads to high maintenance costs.

"Yesterday this piece of equipment behind me was out spreading material on slick roads. Today (Sunday) the sun is out, and then Monday this truck will be out actually patching," Duffy said.

Patching -- yes, that means pot holes.

"In the past where we'd shovel the material out of the back of the truck, we are able to auger the material out onto the project, which saves the employees back which is the real big thing," Duffy said.

Crews also said it would save space at facilities where equipment sits bumper to bumper.

Eventually the department plans to have ten swap loaders. On a winter like this, they need all the help they can get to keep up with Mother Nature.

Duffy said one of the new trucks costs $161,000, and they are purchasing them as the older trucks break down.
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