CDOT Reminds Motorists: Do Not Crowd Snowplow Trucks

SOUTHWEST/SOUTH-CENTRAL COLORADO—With a strong winter snowstorm predicted for the coming weekend, electronic message boards across the region are lighting up with this important message:


The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) reminds the traveling public that snowplows need space to work.

The National Weather Service, based in Grand Junction, forecasts a strong storm and cold front moving into Southwest Colorado by the evening of Friday, Dec. 16. The system is expected to initially bring a rain-snow mix at lower elevations. As the night falls, snow is expected in the mountains and down to the lower valley floors.

CDOT encourages travelers to be aware of snowplow operations as maintenance crews across the region will be actively working to maintain the roadways.

"In the past few weeks, several passenger vehicles have crashed into our plow trucks while they were clearing snow from the roads. All were attempting to pass our plows," said David Vialpando, superintendent for CDOT's Maintenance Section 7, headquartered in Alamosa. "In order for our plows to remove snow efficiently and apply sand or deicing agents safely, a maximum speed of 35 miles per hour is required. This speed may seem slow to some drivers following a snowplow, but to attempt passing is very risky!"

Meanwhile Greg Stacy, superintendent for CDOT's Maintenance Section 3, headquartered in Durango said, "The ultimate advice to avoid causing a crash is simply: Do not crowd our plows. When a plow is in a crash it can no longer maintain the roadways for everyone."

  1. Never pass on the right.
    Never a good idea! Many plows use a blade extension (wing plow) on the right-hand side of the truck. The blade extends the plowing area toward the shoulder of the road, leaving no room to pass. Also, plows are designed to push all the snow, slush, rocks and other debris to the right of the truck. The flying debris will damage your vehicle and obstruct your view of the road.
  2. Never pass during tandem/echelon plowing.
    Tandem/echelon plowing staggers multiple plows to cover all lanes and clear the entire roadway in one coordinated sweep. This is the safest and most efficient snow-removal method to clear the entire roadway. It is extremely dangerous for motorists to try and pass plows in this formation because you could encounter whiteout conditions, ridges of snow between lanes or get trapped between the snowplow trucks.
  3. Never tailgate.
    Plows need to drop deicer and sand, so make sure you stay back at least three to four car lengths of space. If you're too close, your visibility is reduced, and deicer and sand could hit your car. You also never know when a plow might need to suddenly stop; make sure you have plenty of room to do the same.

Stacy added, "We believe it is extremely important to educate the public about snowplowing operations and safety while driving near plows. We encourage everyone to visit our CDOT website to access this helpful information."