Behind the wheel: small town plows

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While the Minnesota Department of Transportation is in charge of clearing major roads and highways, counties and townships are in charge of smaller, rural roads. Some local townships contract with independent plow companies to help clear the snow.

Dennis Barth has been a plow driver for more than 30 years. His team of seven people covers five townships near Rochester. On a typical day they plow around 140 miles of gravel road, according to Barth.

There are a few differences in how township plow drivers and city plow drivers operate.

Barth says his team waits until the storm is almost over before they head out to clear the roads, while MnDot snow plows get out earlier.

Gravel roads can be difficult to plow if the ground is too soft.

“When it’s thawed like it was yesterday it really makes for a long day. It’s really hard on equipment and the employees,” Barth said.

Township plow drivers have to avoid removing the gravel with the snow. Barth also says people living in townships often have to deal with more blowing and drifting snow — adding that drivers should give township plows plenty of room to work, because they’re making frequent U-turns.