Computer-based anti-icing and RWIS training

Bret Hodne
Superintendent of Public Works
City of West Des Moines, Iowa
Chair, APWA Winter Maintenance Subcommittee

Is keeping up with the latest advancements in winter maintenance a high priority for your agency? Have you implemented an anti-icing program but are looking for ways to get more training out to your staff? Would more individualized training benefit your department? If you have been asking yourself these questions, APWA may have the answer for you. At this year's North American Snow Conference, the Anti-Icing/RWIS Computer-Based Training (CBT) program was released for sale through the APWA Bookstore. In conjunction with the sale of this program, APWA also sponsored sessions highlighting the content of this new training tool. In the opinion of many winter maintenance professionals, this is one of the most valuable winter maintenance tools to ever come along.

The CBT was identified in 1997 as a "high priority" by representatives from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' (AASHTO) Winter Maintenance Technical Service Program, the Aurora Snow and Ice Consortium, and the Snow and Ice Pooled Fund Cooperative Program (SICOP). The objective of the training was to develop and deliver a comprehensive training program on anti-icing strategies, RWIS (Road Weather Information System), and snow and ice control materials and equipment. Another objective was to provide training on procedures for the personnel responsible for decisions regarding the level of service to be provided on highways and streets under winter conditions. To make this training a reality, the program received the funding and support of over 30 states, APWA, and the National Association of County Engineers (NACE).

Training Delivery Model
Successfully implementing RWIS and anti-icing strategies requires a shift in the way winter maintenance is carried out. Merely presenting the material in a classroom setting would have limited success in changing the culture of winter maintenance. Maintenance engineers and workers need more than the principles of RWIS and anti-icing. Applying the knowledge through decision-making during winter storms and understanding the outcome of those decisions are important to success.

The performance-based training model requires students to demonstrate proficiency by successfully performing a series of tasks. To remove the risk associated with poor decisions during actual winter storms, the training program utilizes a series of storm scenarios or simulations for students to practice what they learned.

Using current multimedia computer-based training technology to produce this program has many advantages:

  • Training can be conducted in a classroom setting or as a self-paced program. This allows students to work at their own pace either alone or in small teams. It can take place over several sessions, in a non-threatening setting.

  • The use of template-driven applications to produce this program means it can be easily modified to match each agency's current winter maintenance program, policies, and equipment. Likewise, it is expandable so that additional material can be added as it becomes available through national research or as the agency's experiences grow.

  • A full set of RWIS and anti-icing reference material is included which can be updated. Bookmarking the knowledge tree and glossary for future reference means that this program can become a future reference after the training is completed.

  • In the scenario room, students fight simulated storms. This allows them to try new techniques and strategies to gain confidence before they apply them in real life.

  • A full set of administrative tools is provided so that training managers can track students' progress and identify areas where students have a particularly difficult time.

  • The multimedia experience makes this program enjoyable to use.

  Introductory tutorial to the CBT program

RWIS and Anti-Icing Training
Development of the training followed sound adult education principles. The program requires interaction by the student beyond simply moving from one page to the next. Interactive exercises, fun facts, hot links to key word definitions, the glossary, and Internet websites add to the experience. An Office Assistant named Jake is there to help students through the program.

The theme of winter maintenance is carried throughout the training. When students begin the program, they come to the "Road Map." As they complete each lesson and demonstrate their proficiency by passing a >quiz, the lesson is checked off and their snowplow plows the road to the next lesson. The material is presented through the windshield of a snowplow. Functionality is built into the various controls in the cab. For example, click on the radio for help, the turn indicator to go forward or back, and the door handle to exit.

The actual training is divided into two parts. The first contains seven formal lessons that present the base of knowledge for RWIS and anti-icing. The lessons are:

  • Introduction to Anti-Icing and Winter Maintenance
  • Winter Road Management
  • Roadway Ice and Winter Hazards
  • Weather Basics
  • Anti-Icing Road Weather Analysis
  • Computer Access to Road Weather Information
  • AI/RWIS Practice in Winter Maintenance

  The "Winter Road Maintenance Management" lesson

Some lessons are global and relevant to all agencies, while others are very agency-specific. There is a master, generic training program that contains all the material with placeholders for the various media necessary to create an agency-specific, custom program.

The second is the scenario room where simulated storms play out based on the decisions of the student.

The Scenario Room
Once students complete all seven lessons and pass the quizzes, they find themselves in the scenario room where they can practice what they have learned. Faced with a variety of winter storms particular to their own region, students make decisions regarding chemical use and timing based on information from many sources. Detractors and distractions are also present in the scenario room to complicate the life of the student.

Job aids developed for each piece of technology to assist students in the scenario room and in real life are available. The purpose of the job aids is to provide clear and concise information without referring to the reference text. In general, each job aid is limited to one page. Laminated, they can survive the rigors of winter maintenance and serve as a quick reference on the job.

Suggestions and examples of data collection techniques to capture actual pre-storm, storm, and post-storm decisions are offered in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the decisions actually made and is an important concept to provide feedback to the training program. Modifications can then be made to improve the program in future years on an agency-by-agency basis.

This computer-based training program provides students of winter maintenance at all levels with the necessary knowledge to utilize RWIS technology to make good decisions during winter maintenance operations. The scenario room with its simulated winter storms allows for the development of decision-making skills using these technologies before the actual winter storm. This combination of tools and reference material should provide a solid start for the implementation of RWIS and anti-icing technologies in a winter maintenance program.

The development of this training program was made possible by the cooperation of SICOP, the Aurora Snow and Ice Consortium, and several participating governmental agencies through the AASHTO Pooled Fund program.

For more information, contact Richard J. Nelson, P.E., District Engineer, Nevada Department of Transportation, at (775) 888-7440 or

The CBT is one of the most beneficial training programs to ever be developed for the winter maintenance community. There are future plans to update and add more chapters to this program. If you would like to purchase a copy of the Anti-Icing/RWIS Computer Based Training for your agency please contact the APWA Bookstore at or call the Member Services Hotline at (800) 848-APWA, ext. 3560.