QUINCY — Illinois Department of Transportation District 6 Operations Engineer Steve Beran offers some simple advice for drivers heading into the winter months.
“Do not crowd the plow while we’re out there doing our business in the wintertime,” Beran said.
IDOT and Illinois State Police officials highlighted preparations for snow-and-ice season and provided winter safety advice during Wednesday morning’s “Winter Weather-Get it Together” event at the IDOT Quincy Yard.
Last week’s short-lived wintry mix of snow and sleet offered a preview of things to come this winter, but Beran said IDOT is ready to plow some 5,500 miles of road with 154 truck routes in District 6, which covers 15 counties including Adams, Brown, Hancock and Pike.
Hiring snowplow operators has been difficult, with IDOT still short of the 308 needed, so “we will be a little bit short-staffed when it comes to winter operations,” Beran said. “Just be patient. We will get there.”
But despite supply chain issues on a variety of goods nationwide, “salt is not a problem,” Beran said, with about 2,900 tons in the storage dome in Quincy.
“At this point in time, we’re probably set up if we didn’t get any resupply at all to handle half the winter, but we keep reordering salt as we use it,” Beran said. “We have active contracts with salt suppliers.”
While IDOT focuses on road safety, ISP concentrates on the safety of those on the road.
“Ice and snow, take it slow,” Interim District 20 Commander Lt. Jeff Schisler said. “Slow down and give yourself a better chance to react to constantly changing weather conditions.”
Remember, Schisler said, that Scott’s Law requires drivers to “move over” for emergency vehicles or any vehicles stopped alongside the road with flashers on.
“Always wear your seat belt,” Schisler said. “If you slide off the road or are involved in a crash, please stay in your vehicle and keep your seat belt on. If you get outside your vehicle, you run the risk of being harmed as a pedestrian.”
Allen Presser, an IDOT highway maintainer who drives a snowplow route on U.S. 24 from Quincy to Camp Point, offers even more safety advice.
“The biggest thing I’ve seen from the seat of that truck over the 20 years I’ve been working here is the cell phone usage,” he said. “I’d like to tell people, especially during the winter, to put their cell phones down.”
Presser keeps a close eye on other motorists from his perch in the plow’s cab — and on the weather and road conditions.
Computer tablets in the snowplows report the conditions to “the Getting Around Illinois website, so the public is more informed as to what the road conditions are,” Presser said.
District 6 snowplows include the Orange Crush, based in Springfield, and Scoopy Doo, based in Quincy, winning entries from about 700 submitted in the “Name the Plow” contest at this year’s Illinois State Fair.
“Look for what they’re doing on our social media pages,” IDOT Region 4 Community OUtreach Liaison Joe Schatteman said. “We’ll have updates on how Scoopy Doo and Orange Crush are doing throughout the winter.”