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Mechanics: Snowplows not as tough as they look

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Catherine W. Idzerda
February 8, 2008
— On the road, snowplows look scary and indestructible.

But the mechanics, machinists and welders at the Rock County Public Works Department know those plows have tender sides.


And tender undersides.


And tender insides.


Rock County employs a single shift of nine employees who have to keep the county’s 57 plows, six giant V-plow trucks and five graders in working order. They have to know how to fix trucks that are more than 32-years old and those that are close to brand new.


“The thing that breaks the most are the wings,” said Michael Turk, Rock County Public Works shop superintendent.


The wings are the plow blades that jut out from the side of the trucks.


“They just take a lot of abuse,” Turk said. “They’re just hanging out there, suspended by a couple of steel pieces. They hit the snow pack pretty hard.”


Next come the blades in front of the trucks.


Interstate 90/39 is concrete, and the blades just “grind right off,” Turk said.


Remember, the Interstate has to be scraped clean.


The hydraulic hoses and lights are the other common repairs.


“The trucks live in a corrosive environment with salt and salt brine,” Turk said. “It just drenches the whole vehicle.”


The electrical lines can’t handle that kind of abuse.


“Our mechanics are our saving grace,” said Turk. “There’s no way we could take the trucks to a dealer and get them back when we need them.”


Fast facts

Rock County’s plow fleet includes:


-- 37 single-axle trucks, with an average age of 12.9 years.


-- 18 tandem or tri-axle trucks, with an average age of 11.2 years.


-- Six Oshkosh trucks with the large V-plow on the front. Average age is 32.4 years.


-- Five graders, with an average age of 27.8 years.


-- One new grader has been ordered. It was not included in the age calculations.


Most common plow truck repairs are:


-- Wing blades—They take the most abuse.


-- Front plow blades—They get ground down on the pavement, especially on Interstate 90/39.


-- Hoses from the hydraulics—They take a lot of jostling and jolting.


-- Lights—The salt and salt brine is hard on their electrical lines.



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