All told, the North Dakota Department of Transportation has just 350 snowplow driver spread out across the state.
Coincidentally, the department also has 350 snowplows. That means for every truck, there is one driver. If that driver gets sick or has to take a break after a long shift, there is no one left to pick up his or her route.
When the region is blasted by big storms, or back-to-back blizzards like the ones that hit last New Year's, it can take days or even weeks before every road is passable again.
And that's with the DOT cranking at high gear.
"We are out there in full force just trying to keep the roads clear," said Brent Muscha of the NDDOT.
But this year, the department has some new equipment at its disposal to help in the fight against snow and ice.
The NDDOT has two 26-foot Tow Plows in its fleet. These large, tow-behind blades act as a second tow truck, and when combined with the pulling vehicle up front, will clear approximately 24 feet in a single pass. That's the width of three driving lanes in one crack.
"They are ideal of metro areas like Fargo and Bismarck," Muscha said. It is no coincidence, then, that the current locations of the state's only Tow Plows are in those cities.
There are plans to purchase more, however Muscha could not say when that would be.
Until then, the two Tow Plows will help alleviate some manpower required to keep the roads clean.
"They give us the ability to relocate drivers to other areas," Muscha said.
Tow Plows are ideal for the interstate, as well as ramps and shoulders. Tow Plows also contain two large holding tanks. This gives the Tow Plow added weight, and the ability to apply liquid chemicals to melt snow and ice, or keep it from accumulating in the first place.