Efficient and effective winter maintenance is important for several reasons, including:
the publics expectation of clear highways is increasing;
winter maintenance resources-manpower, equipment, and materials-are constrained; and
environmental concerns about deicing materials are rising.
To achieve the most effective winter maintenance with most efficient use of resources, transportation agencies are moving toward the use of Maintenance Decision Support Systems. An MDSS uses knowledge of existing road conditions, forecasts of impending weather, and principles of chemistry and physics of road surfaces, ice, and deicing chemicals to suggest the most efficient maintenance treatments and timing. To ensure valid recommendations, the MDSS must be promptly informed of maintenance treatments that are actually applied.
At present, SDDOT feeds information about observed road conditions and actual maintenance treatments manually, either through the MDSS Graphical User Interface at the shop office, or through keyed phone entries. Because manual entry takes time from the vehicle operator, both the amount of data and the frequency of entry are limited. Automatic entry, using sensors equipped on the maintenance vehicle and wireless communications from an onboard mobile data collector, would be far preferable. Such a system could track the vehicles location, measure road surface condition, sense plow positions (up or down), identify material types and application rates, and relay this information to the MDSS. It could also communicate information, such as maintenance recommendations, back to the operator. If communications were compliant with the National Transportation Communications for ITS Protocol (NTCIP), this information could also be used for other purposes such as traveler information and traffic management.
Research is needed to define the functionality required to support SDDOT maintenance and traffic operations needs and to develop an onboard mobile data collection system to provide that functionality.