For the past two years, Michigan's Department of Transportation has been using technology that doesn't just tell them the road conditions but even predicts when they'll most likely need to plow before snow hits the ground.
Andy Sikkema, an MDOT Service Manager in Ishpeming, said since the switch, he believes they're providing a higher level of service and it's all thanks to the two computer programs.
"It's had a really significant impact on how we do our work," said Sikkema.
Vehicle sensors collect data on road and air temperatures and if the truck is plowing, sanding or salting. That data is then fed into a support system and analyzed by meteorologists and maintenance techs for recommendations.
"It's going to tell us weather conditions might be too cold to make salt effective, so we're going to blade and sand," Sikkema explained.
They're advisors even warn them of weather systems ahead of time.
"We start to get out in front of the storms and we can plan when we have to have people available," Sikkema said.
Another tool MDOT uses is an environmental weather sensor. It can tell if there's salt or ice on the road and even measure travel speeds. If speeds are decreasing MDOT knows there's something affecting travel and, at this time of year, it??s most likely weather related.
That's when cameras atop these $25,000 weather sensors come into play.
"We'll be able to make better decisions on when we need people on the road; we'll use our equipment more wisely," Sikkema stated.
Besides having 25 placed around Upper Michigan, Sikkema said all the tools combined help MDOT do one thing: clear roads before the morning commute.