Technology Helps SD DOT Decide How To Tackle Roads

With both snow and frigid temperatures in the forecast, the South Dakota Department of Transportation is constantly monitoring the weather. Technology plays a major factor in determining whether or not they hit the road.

South Dakota Department of Transportation Region Engineer Craig Smith said, “When is the event going to move in, trying to plan that staff, when are we going to need to send those drivers and plows out.”

A dozen weather stations are set up throughout the state. At more than 80 locations statewide, three to four cameras are also capturing the conditions of the roads; this one attached to a message board near the Renner exit on Interstate 29. Each one catches a different angle.

“Right at the surface of the roadway, others are looking down the road to give drivers and our staff an idea of what the conditions might be,” said Smith.  

In addition to the cameras on the interstate, some of their trucks capture still images as they travel down the road.

Smith said, “About every five minutes, they’re taking a picture and in this case whatever the trucks seeing at that point.”

GPS technology allows them to capture the drivers speed, the treatment they’re using, whether their plow is up or down, and the temperature of the pavement.      Many times that determines whether they use chemical, salt or sand on the roadway. If it’s too windy, sometimes it’s best to do nothing.

Smith said, “Drivers really use that pavement temperature sensor to decide what kind of strategy they’re going to have that day.”

The DOT can monitor all of these aspects from a computer, much of the same information you can see for yourself on SafeTravelUSA.com.

“Looks like we’ve got some wheel tracks in this location in the driving lanes. Maybe a little more snow covered in the passing lane,” said Smith.

The DOT has about 400 trucks across the state. On a day like Friday, the use almost all of those.