Plowing Ahead: Your Winter Maintenance Subcommittee is doing just that!

R. Mark DeVries
Maintenance Superintendent
McHenry County Division of Transportation, Woodstock, Illinois
Vice-Chair, APWA Winter Maintenance Subcommittee

Cold, snow, sleet and freezing rain, blowing snow, blizzard conditions, winter's wrath! Does the sound of this give you chills like a horror film and make you consider heading to a warmer climate? On the other hand, are you a person who can't wait for the lakes to freeze, ice fishing, the first snow, the holidays, skiing and snowboarding, sledding and making snow angels with the kids? Well, regardless of your personal feelings, winter impacts the transportation industry every year.

So how does your agency approach the winter season? Do you welcome it or dread it? The difference could lay in how prepared your agency is. An agency that is ready, has a plan, trains its staff, has its materials on hand and is looking to implement new programs probably has a different outlook compared to an agency that has not prepared its equipment, does not have its materials onsite, does not have a plan in place for the coming season, and has employees that are untrained and left in the dark.

Your Winter Maintenance Subcommittee is committed to improving agencies and helping to train supervisors and staff. Consider the subcommittee's mission statement: "On behalf of the citizens we serve, to be an informed action and advocacy group to promote the development and use of the safest, most cost-effective, efficient and environmentally-sensitive winter maintenance technologies, equipment, materials and practices; so these citizens can enjoy an excellent quality of life during the snow and ice season."

The Winter Maintenance Subcommittee is made up of snow and ice professionals who work hand-in-hand with APWA staff and the APWA Transportation Committee to provide you with the tools you need to raise the level of service your agency provides to the public. The subcommittee members come from across North America and provide us with a fantastic cross section of knowledge. From the extreme cold of northern Canada to the occasional icing issues of the southern states, from the mountains of the west to the powerful storms that rocked the northeast, the subcommittee is represented for the first time in all areas.

Putting that knowledge to work is the key. This is a bigger commitment than most people think. Consider the projects the subcommittee is working on. We are gearing up for the next Snow Conference in Saint Paul. Coming off a very successful show in Peoria the subcommittee is again looking to improve the experience. Most subcommittee members present at least one educational session at the conference. Submittals from other educators must be reviewed and the entire program put together. The subcommittee is always looking for new and innovative subjects and fresh faces for the conference.

This year, heavy equipment was exhibited at the show in Peoria for the first time. It was very successful and the Winter Maintenance Subcommittee is working to promote it again at the upcoming conference. The subcommittee is also researching the idea of a snow plow roadeo prior to or following the conference. Dubbed the "North American Roadeo," this project is under study.

The subcommittee has developed and reviewed the Snow and Ice Award and is ready to move that project forward for consideration by the National Awards Review Committee and the Transportation Committee. If implemented, this award will allow agencies from across North America to submit for recognition as the best in snow and ice removal.

Another important area of education is partnering with other organizations to get these best practices to the local agencies. Out-of-state travel and budget restraints limit seminars that many agencies may attend. Most of the subcommittee members are involved in additional seminars across North America, sharing their experiences and knowledge with local agencies. Many members also serve on other committees representing APWA and its interests such as the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, National Association of County Engineers, Local Technical Assistance Programs, Midwest States Center, Clear Roads, Aurora, and many others. Most Winter Maintenance Subcommittee members also write articles throughout the year or present papers on the subcommittee's behalf.

Members continue to assist with another exciting project, computer-based training. The first release was a success and additional modules are being considered for development. Once developed this will be a great aide to agencies at all levels.

These are some of the challenges facing your Winter Maintenance Subcommittee. I would be remiss if I did not commend each member for their commitment and dedication to this cause. All subcommittee members are dedicated public servants with full-time responsibilities to their agencies and the public they serve. This is a testament as well to their agencies for allowing them the flexibility to serve on this subcommittee and share their experiences.

Check out the Winter Maintenance Subcommittee web page at The subcommittee is always looking for feedback and is willing to assist in any way it can so you can look forward to winter instead of dreading it.

Mark DeVries can be reached at (815) 334-4975 or