Winter roads, especially late in the season, can be especially rough, causing more stress on snowplow lift chains and plow lift parts as the heavy plow assembly bounces more. Broken plow lift chains are a common result and can take maintenance vehicles and personnel out of service for hours.
Industrious maintenance personnel with the Otter Tail County Highway Department created the Otter Plow Cushion with spare parts during downtime on a cold winter day. The device absorbs the shock of rough roads on the plow assembly and lift chains, improving ride quality and reducing the failure of the plow lift chains and parts. Once their stock of used parts was depleted, the maintenance staff found they could purchase the needed parts new for about $431 per plow.
The Otter Tail County Highway Department received a grant through the Local Operational Research Assistance (OPERA) Program to produce more Otter Plow Cushions. So far, they have outfitted 12 of 28 plows, and they have significantly reduced their incidence of broken plow lift chains and improved ride quality.
OPERA, which encourages maintenance employees from all cities and counties to get involved in operational or “hands-on” research, helps to develop innovations in the construction and maintenance operations of local government transportation organizations and share those ideas statewide. OPERA is a program of the Minnesota Local Road Research Board and the Minnesota Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), a program housed at CTS.