Snow removal procedures in Westminster

Pat Sexton
Street Operations Foreman
Department of Public Works & Utilities
City of Westminster, Colorado

The City of Westminster Department of Public Works & Utilities' goal is to provide the citizens of Westminster with safe streets and open thoroughfares through the most efficient means possible even during adverse weather conditions.

The population of Westminster is approximately 107,000. Total lane miles for the city are 1,025. Out of that 1,025, Westminster services 340 primary lane miles and 200 secondary lane miles, which does not include residential stops and hills.

Beginning in September, we check out all of our equipment assigned to snow removal (e.g., plows, sanders and trucks) and make appropriate repairs. Additionally, all trucks will be calibrated to apply 200 pounds of deicer per lane mile.

  Seat simulator used for onsite snowplow driver training.

A good snow removal program starts with a good training program. During the month of September we will be conducting a one-day class for all PW&U employees that are involved in snow removal operations. This class will be going over the snow manual, procedures and snowfighters' responsibilities. Each employee will be instructed on the proper installation of plows and salters along with training for the hydraulics system. For the newer employees, they are given the opportunity for a "dry run" which also gives them the opportunity to familiarize themselves with their route.

Westminster is equipped with 17 trucks which are used for snow removal: 14 are tandem dump trucks; three are single-axle dump trucks; eight are equipped with v-box spreaders; and nine are equipped with drop-type sanders. All trucks are equipped with plows and Force America hydraulic systems. We also have four front-end loaders and one motor grader which are used during major snow storms.

  In-cab training of snowplow drivers.

Each year all of the employees in the Department of Public Works & Utilities that do snow removal are required to participate in the in-house snowplow rodeo competition. This training/competition sharpens the skills of the truck drivers and equipment operators prior to the first snowfall. The results of the competition are tabulated and analyzed by supervisory personnel to determine the assistance that employees may need in their snowplow technique. Hopefully this will reduce accidents that may occur during the season.

The competition also gives the department an opportunity to select the best driver to represent the City of Westminster in the Western Snow and Ice Conference where they compete against other cities in a similar obstacle course.

By combining Utilities' field personnel and the Street Operations Division personnel, a two-crew system has been implemented. Two employees are assigned to one of the 17 snow route areas and to the specific truck designated for use in that area for the entire snow season. The crews are referred to as "Crew I" and "Crew II."

  Westminster snow fighters learning to hitch the plow.

All snowfighters are issued pagers and supervisors are issued two-way pagers. This ensures that employees are prompt and that they are able to arrive at the shops within 20 minutes of being paged. This allows the supervisors to summon individuals separately or an entire crew with only one page.

A crew consists of 20 employees as follows: 17 truck drivers, one loader operator and two storm supervisors. New employees are also called in to train with a veteran in his assigned area and to learn all the idiosyncrasies of that area and the assigned vehicle. The loader operator affords the truck drivers an opportunity to get out of the trucks for a short break while their truck is being loaded without costing valuable time. This is very important because it helps ensure continued alertness of all snowfighters to provide safety to the public and protection of City property.

The City of Westminster has a snow and ice control manual which is updated each year with the newest routes and policies and procedures. Each employee is given a copy of this manual as reference.

All efforts are used to keep material usage to a minimum, applying at a sensible rate to assure cost effectiveness and minimize environmental impact. Our application rate is 200 pounds per lane mile.

  • Primary Routes - All arterials and major collector streets considered to be the minimum network which must be kept open to provide a transportation system covering the major traffic volume streets and providing access to hospitals, police stations, fire stations and rescue squad units.

  • Secondary Routes - Collector streets of the residential areas which provide access to all schools and bus routes.

  • Residential Areas - Stop signs, hills, curves, and dangerous intersections on residential streets.

Residential streets will be plowed and deiced only with a category III or IV snow storm:

  • Category I - One inch or less of snow resulting in icy conditions throughout the city. All trucks in service are to apply deicer to major arterials and collector streets plus hazardous stops and hills.

  • Category II - Two inches of snow resulting in slick, slushy conditions throughout the city. All trucks in service are to plow and apply deicer on major arterials and collector streets plus hazardous stops and hills.

  • Category III - Two inches or more of drifting snow causing blizzard conditions. All trucks in service are to plow and apply deicer to all major arterials simultaneously as snow and wind continues. When the storm subsides, collector streets and residentials affected by drifting snow will be plowed and deiced.

  • Category IV - Major snow storm in excess of eight inches with drifting causing blizzard conditions and closures. All trucks, graders, loaders in service, plus private contractors with heavy equipment, are to keep major arterials open. Collectors and residentials are attended to when the storm subsides.

  City of Westminster snowplow.

Snow removal doesn't stop at the end of deicing and plowing. Post-storm activities can carry on for days and sometimes weeks after a major storm. After all these tasks are accomplished, trucks and equipment are cleaned and checked for repairs prior to the next storm. Additionally, supervisors must complete a "storm report" calculating the amount and cost of materials used, number of lane miles sanded/salted and plowed, overtime hours and cost for employees, a complete breakdown of contract equipment, storm duration and classification, and a brief summary of problems encountered and recommendations.

This year we have started to equip trucks with GPS (Global Positioning Systems). In 2007, all trucks will be equipped with GPS.

Westminster continues exploring and experimenting with different deicers and is always searching for better technology and ways to make improvements.

Pat Sexton can be reached at (303) 430-2400 or