Iowa DOT Testing ‘Whip Lights’ for Highway Snowplows

This winter, the Iowa Department of Transportation will be testing new “whip lights” on several of its snowplows – lights attached to the edge of the plow to not only better highlight the vehicle’s position to oncoming traffic, but also provide a “visual cue” to the plow operator.

[Above photo by Iowa DOT]

Those amber “whip lights” will eventually take the place of the flags currently used to show the edge of the plow blade, the agency said.

“We’ve used these whip lights pretty extensively around the state on wing plows on the side of the trucks and tow plows that are being pulled behind a truck,” noted Tina Greenfield with Iowa DOT’s maintenance bureau, in a recent blog post. “They work very well to help drivers see where the plow blade is working. Now, we’re taking this technology a step further and attaching them to the front plow blade.”

Different lengths of lights will be tested on plows in several Iowa DOT shops around the state, she added.

[Editor’s note: State departments of transportation across the country are trying out different kinds of technology to help improve snowplow operations. For example, the video below shows how the South Carolina Department of Transportation is using snowplow simulators to better prepare their crews for winter operation scenarios.]

“We have a number of different trucks with different dimensions,” Greenfield pointed out. “We want the whip lights to be in the view of the operator, but we don’t want them too tall. We’re experimenting with both 18-inch and 24-inch lights.”

While she noted that such whip lights are “a simple concept,” they also offer the potential to provide a big safety impact, especially on rural two-lane roads. “One of our goals when we’re plowing these roads is to expose the paint lines, especially the center line,” Greenfield explained. “That means we’re plowing very close to oncoming traffic. The easier it is to see where the plow is working, the safer we’ll all be when we share the road.”

The Iowa DOT noted that it has been experiment with several technologies – including new lighting and wiper blade systems – to improve snowplow safety during the past year.

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