Annual preventative maintenance for seasonal equipment, including snowplows, is policy at PennDOT.
Matthew Semian, highway equipment manager in District 1's Crawford County, said he just "took that directive a few steps further."
Four years ago, faced with a limited budget and higher priorities, Semian knew he just couldn't afford to keep replacing snowplows.
He came up with an idea to thoroughly refurbish the snowplows each year.
"We begin in April each year by assessing which plows need to be refurbished after winter," Semian said. "The plows are completely disassembled, repairs are made, and then they are sent to a vendor for sandblasting and refinishing with a high-quality urethane primer and topcoat."
When the plows are returned to the county, they are reassembled, and parts such as pins, bushings, hydraulic rams, chains and hoists, are replaced or rebuilt.
Since the project began, 32 snowplows have been completely refurbished, extending their life by about 10 years and saving the county nearly $300,000. As a bonus, this program has provided a valuable learning opportunity for welding students enrolled in PennDOT's School to Employment at PennDOT (STEP) program, which assists with long-term recruiting efforts.
"This is a big win for the county and has enabled us to put an additional quarter of a million dollars into roadway repairs or toward the purchase of needed equipment over the last three years," said Crawford County Maintenance Manager Aaron Fox.
Semian said he came up with the idea when, "I realized the price of replacement plows had skyrocketed around 2016, about the time foreign steel tariffs went into effect."
One of his duties, Semian said, is to replace the equipment when necessary, while staying within budget. The process becomes more challenging with limited funding and rising equipment costs.
"I began looking for ways to stretch those funds to the max," Semian said. "Cutting snowplows from capital equipment funding allows me to order additional core equipment pieces such as crew cabs or possibly a loader."
Including labor, parts and vendor repairs, refurbishment costs about $1,600 per snowplow, compared to buying a new snowplow, which costs more than $18,000.
Semian credited Jeff Hershelman and Randy Calvin, the county's mechanic supervisors, with helping to implement and expand the plan by evaluating the snowplows, scheduling the repairs and refinishing. Steve Zoria, the county's welder, leading the team in managing the repair process.
Each summer, Crawford County has refurbished up to eight snowplows.
"Eventually, we will have refurbished all of our plows, or at least all of the plows in need," Semian said. "We will then evaluate how well these plows have performed, along with the possibility of a second round of refurbishment for some."
District 1 shared this smart practice through PennDOT WorkSmart, an online system, accessible 24/7, that provides all PennDOT employees with a forum to share their smart practices, or things they are already doing as part of their normal work day, with their fellow PennDOT employees.
To view this or other smart practices, or if you have a smart practice you'd like to share, visit PennDOT WorkSmart.
PennDOT WorkSmart is administered by PennDOT's Bureau of Innovations (BOI). For more information, contact DOTInnovations@pa.gov.