It doesn't need to snow for the plows to roll - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

by Crystal Oko

It doesn't need to snow for the plows to roll

ROCHESTER, MN (FOX 47) -- Snow seems so far away on this beautiful Easter weekend. But it's never far from the minds of Mn/DOT employees who deal with snow removal all winter.

And even now, in mid-April, employees are still driving plows.

It looks like a day in mid-January, snowy and cold.

But inside this snow plow simulator, the Minnesota Department of Transportation's newest toy, it's perfect.

"I started out, at my age, with the original Space Invaders type game. I mean look at what we've got here, it's virtual reality," said Scott Allen, Mn/DOT.

"It's really on the scene. It's really on the scene work. It's like how it is when you're out there driving snow plows."

This simulator takes training to a whole new level.

'"We started out in the classroom with an overhead transparency," said Scott Allen, Mn/DOT.

This simulator costs a half-million dollars, and we're told it would cost about 2 and a half times this simulator just in fuel to train every driver in our district.

And besides cutting costs, this simulator is safer than taking first-time drivers out on the roads.

"They get used to it out here first and now we can take them out on the real road hands on and drive," said Allen.

It can also simulate real-danger situations like a tire blow out or a white-out.

So after I watched a 20-year-veteran at the wheel, it was my turn.  And apparently I did pretty well, even with a blown tire and white out conditions, and it was fun.

"We've had positive feed back on everything and most of them want to drive more," said Allen.

The simulator will move throughout the state to different Mn/DOT districts to train employees on a few different vehicles.

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