PennDOT holds a Snow Academy to prepare for winter

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MIDDLESEX TOWNSHIP, CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Pa. -- The recent mild temperatures make it difficult to think about winter at times like these.

A certain group of drivers already have their minds set on snow days.

PennDOT is holding a three-day Snow Academy at the Cumberland County maintenance facility.

Some of us would rather not think about winter on a warm fall day, but for the people who operate snow plows, it's not too early to get back in the driver's seat.

PennDot's Snow Academy gives new and experienced operators a seasonable crash course on everything from getting behind the wheel of a snow plow, to the chains they put on them.

PennDOT spokesperson Fritzi Schreffler said "can they stop when there are stop signs, mailboxes, other objects in the way, learning how to use the wing plow. It's not the same as just driving straight, you have something off the side of the truck that is going to throw snow further."

The Snow Academy puts experienced drivers like Josh Brennan to the test, but he says there are a few things to look out for, not found on the obstacle course.

Snow plow Operator Josh Brennan said "the big thing would be to stay away from us. Let us do our job. Stay back, away, and slow down. Big one is slow down."

For the first time, a snow plow tracking system will be available statewide. It will allow drivers to track the progress Brennan and his fellow operators make as they hit the road during a storm.

"Every year we get the calls where people say 'I haven't seen you, I drive the whole way home and I didn't see a single truck.' Now you can go on the website and you can see that we were there, maybe an hour ago, which might be before you got there, or we're just about to circle around," Schreffler said.

In Cumberland County alone, a team of 86 operators will cover two shifts on 43 routes. The first day of winter is several weeks away, but it's not too early for these operators to prepare for the job.

"Within the next couple of weeks, our entire fleet will be outfitted and be ready to put the plows on and head out, just in case. We have historically had snow in October, so it's really not early for us," Schreffler said.

Most people dread driving on slick, ICY roads, but not Brennan. He has a lot to look forward to this winter.

"Just plowing snow, and the overtime, big time overtime. Yeah, I like it," Brennan said.

Snow plow operators aren't the only thing PENNDOT is preparing for the season. Salt and other supplies have been ordered in advance to stockpile this winter.

There are still full, temporary, and on/call positions available for drivers with a CDL license. Operators will work a 12-hours shift, starting at noon or midnight.

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