Cameras upping snow removal efforts in District 5
A pilot program in District 5 in central Illinois is using truck cameras to help field supervisors see current route conditions during plowing operations.
District 5 consists of McLean, Dewitt, Piatt, Champaign, Douglas, Edgar and Vermilion Counties.
“Our staff is normally out evaluating conditions and treatments during a storm, but the cameras allow them to see all of the roads they are responsible for, including those that they may not have traveled recently,” said District 5 Operations Engineer David Speicher. “Conditions can change rapidly, and the more information we can provide our supervisors with, the better decisions they can make.”
Supervisors can pull up the information at any time on their computer in the office or remotely using their iPads.
During winter weather events, plow drivers put the GPS/Automated Vehicle Location system in “snow mode.” While in snow mode, the camera automatically takes a picture every 5 to 10 minutes as long as the truck is moving. The camera also takes a picture when the driver enters a road condition, weather report or hits the incident icon on the tablet in the truck. Supervisors can then see the information on the Snow Ops screen.
“The first cameras were installed in October 2018,” Speicher said. “We did some experimenting with camera locations and how best to integrate them with the department’s GPS/AVL system. In late February 2020, the cameras were installed on all trucks in McLean County and then on the other trucks in District 5 over the next several months.”
The cameras are now installed inside the cab at the top center of the windshield to protect them from the weather. The pilot has been successful thus far, with cameras providing valuable information when it’s needed most. Work is continuing to expand the project to districts throughout the state.
“It is my vision to see dash cameras installed in the rest of the snow-and-ice fleet statewide,” said Central Office’s Communications Lead Technician Randy Neal. “However, the camera used in the pilot is now out of production, so we are working on a replacement camera. If everything works with the new camera, then it will be up to securing the funding to purchase and install in the rest of the fleet.”
Implementation of the program has been a team effort.
“While we certainly encouraged it in District 5, Randy Neal, Engineer of Operations Amy Eller and the Central Bureau of Operations were the real drivers of the effort,” Speicher said. “They provided the funding and arranged for the installs. Rita Mathias, who handles our radio room, and Jason Ogle, our equipment tech, worked with the district’s team sections and installers to get the work done and troubleshoot any problems.”