Snow ploughs go high-tech

The IT system developed by B&M Systemutveckling for Svevia reports the location of 1,500 snow-clearing vehicles in real time, what they are doing and how much salt and grit they are getting through.

SveviaWhen the first snow falls and conditions get treacherously icy, great responsibility falls on Svevia to keep everything moving. For assistance, they can call on the Swedish Transport Administration’s 700 monitoring stations throughout the country, which constantly monitor weather conditions. Photo: Patrick Trädgårdh.

Svevia takes care of operation, maintenance and servicing of roads, streets and bridges throughout Sweden. Their biggest client is the Swedish Transport Administration, but certain municipalities and individual parties responsible for upkeep of roads also purchase services from the company. Svevia does much more too.

When it comes to road maintenance and, above all, snow-clearing and de-icing, operations have advanced hugely over the past few years. Thanks to B&M Systemutveckling and their product MobiWin QA, Svevia now has total control of the 1,500 vehicles in service (both own vehicles and subcontractors). The hardware, a BlueTex GPS III, is supplied by B&M’s partner Mowic and is installed in all Svevia’s vehicles for snow-clearing.

Huge responsibility rests on Svevia when the first snow falls and conditions get treacherously icy across Sweden.

Snow and slippery roads

The country’s road network is divided into different areas, with emergency officers on duty. An operations contract is drawn up for each area, specifying what applies for that area. Differing criteria apply in each area with regard to activation of snow-clearing or de-icing operations. It could be that a certain quantity of snow must have fallen or that the slipperiness of the roads (measured as coefficient of friction) must have reached a certain level.

Once the criteria are fulfilled, the emergency officer initiates activities by contacting the resources or certain elements of them. The vehicles start up and the system begins to register what is happening.

The vehicles’ activities and positions are reported to local managers and supervisors in real time. In some cases, the actual driver pushes a button to indicate what activity he is carrying out. In other cases the process is fully automatic, if the vehicle is equipped with sensors that indicate when it is clearing snow, salt-spreading or gritting.

All activities are logged, partly for Svevia, and partly for the Swedish Transport Administration. Having total control facilitates management of resources and is useful for follow-up.

“Svevia is at the forefront in this field. Largely thanks to the GPS positioning and this system.”
Patrik Lidström, Svevia

High-tech salt-spreading

It’s not just the positions that the system generates. You can also obtain information about how much salt and grit is being spread, and where. Modern salt-spreaders are high-tech machinery that can be set for exact gram quantities of salt for spreading and the applicable spreading width, adapted to the speed of the vehicle. The driver controls this via a computer panel in the cab. This, and other information, can be included in reporting processes.

It is also possible to employ route optimisation, but this is not generally implemented, since snow-clearing often has to be prioritised according to how much and where the snow falls, where has most recently been cleared, etc. These are dynamic scenarios, best handled by the supervisors and drivers on the ground. The human touch is still unbeatable in certain areas.

Patrik Lidström is development coordinator and safety manager at Svevia.

“I am highly satisfied with B&M’s work. We had active discussions with them in the beginning and they have delivered excellent solutions to satisfy our requirements.”

“I have heard from various quarters that Svevia is at the forefront and leading development in this field. Largely thanks to the GPS positioning and this system. All in all, our collaboration has worked really well,” says Patrik.