By John Cross
The Free Press
MANKATO — The vagaries of a Minnesota winter make it difficult for a snowplow driver to count on opportunities to polish his or her driving skills.
But thanks to a state-of-the-art snowplow simulator at the Minnesota Department of Transportation district headquarters in Mankato through Thursday, about 60 MnDOT drivers, along with drivers from area counties and communities, got to plow a lot of computer-generated snow while getting their technique evaluated.
Housed in a semi-trailer, drivers got to drive through a variety of computer-generated scenarios projected on flat-screen televisions that recreate the view from a snowplow cab.
The simulators are equipped with all of the controls and displays of an actual snowplow truck, right down to an ignition switch.
After running through a variety of snowplowing scenarios, drivers are evaluated on their techniques and decision making based on terrain, grade, weather and traffic patterns.