Snow Plowing

If you cannot be everywhere at once, you've got to set priorities. That is what the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) does.

RCOC sets priorities primarily by traffic volumes and speeds, although other factors such as hills and curves can also affect priority. RCOC prepares winter maintenance guidelines annually, changing them with changing road traffic conditions.

RCOC plows not only county roads, but also the state highways. The roads receiving attention first are those with traffic volumes normally greater than 40,000 vehicles per day.

Low Priority Roads

So, what roads are at the bottom of the priority list? Unfortunately, it is our subdivision streets. Both the traffic volumes and speeds are lower on subdivision streets, and thus they are done after everything else is taken care of.

Even if safety weren't an issue, it wouldn't make sense to plow subdivision streets before the main roads are done. What is the point of being able to get out of our driveways in subdivisions if we cannot get anywhere on the main roads?

Winter Maintenance Guidelines

The winter maintenance guidelines spell out the pavement conditions that are to be maintained under various weather conditions, the amount of salt to apply under those conditions, the number of trucks to have ready to roll in the various areas of the county, and even the maximum number of hours that a driver should be allowed to work continuously (16 hours). Can you imagine driving one of those plows in a snowstorm for 16 continuous hours? Tough job!

Salt is not effective on gravel roads, so it's used primarily on paved roads, and sand on the gravel roads. It is interesting to note that salt begins to lose its effectiveness on paved roads when the temperature drops below 20 degrees.

Worst Case Scenarios

Probably the two worst situations that can occur for a road agency are a heavy snow storm that starts just before rush hour and a storm that continues for several days without letting up. In the first case, traffic slows to a crawl and the trucks cannot move any faster than the traffic, and in the second case, the trucks must stay out on the main roads to keep them open and cannot get into subdivisions.

RCOC has more than 1,300 miles of subdivision streets to get to, and that is after we take care of more than 1,400 miles of major county roads and 230 miles of multi-lane state highways.

Winter Road Maintenance Brochure
Plowing Subdivisions in Oakland County Brochure