County road department prepares for snow, encourages public to use TRACKS app

Jan. 6—The Madison County Road Department is gearing up for severe winter weather just days into 2022.

On Wednesday, the county road department began pulling trucks out and making sure the GPS will operate for the county's Snow Tracks system installed on plows, while also ensuring that all trucks can be tracked and followed on the website, according to Road Department Supervisor Scott Shepherd.

The site can be found at

The Snow Tracks program is an online tool featured on the county's website and social media, which not only monitors the snow plows for the safety of employees, but gives county residents the ability to view where county snow trucks are, when they plowed, and when they can be expected on certain roads.

"Not only is (Snow Tracks) a great way for citizens to watch where we are at and what we are doing, but provides safety aspects for our drivers," Shepherd said. "This is such a vast county that we actually have someone monitoring our team. If a truck stops for more than five minutes, then a dispatcher is calling into that person on their radio to make sure they are okay and making sure nothing is wrong with the truck and that way we have tabs on our employees at all times to ensure they are safe."

Currently, the road department has 14 full-time CDL-certified drivers. This is a shortage from their typical staff of more than 20. However, for the snow season, the county road department has been fortunate to hire five part-time seasonal drivers for a total of 19 staff to cover all of the snow routes.

One such part-time driver is Madison County Clerk Kenny Barger, who is CDL-certified and volunteering his time to help cover the snow routes this season.

These 19 staff members are just enough to cover the 19 snow routes — 500 road miles/1,000 lane miles — the county is obligated to cover. Each route can take six to eight hours to get around at one time.

"We will be running routes as we normally do and not show up as a shortage," Shepherd added.

While they will be able to cover all the routes like usual, the miles each is required to cover will be longer, as opposed to if they were fully-staffed with 20 to 25 drivers.

"If we had 25 people, each route would be shorter, and everyone would be quicker. But that has not been the case the past couple of years," the director added.

Snow is expected to hit tomorrow afternoon in Madison County, and just before that time, Shepherd and a few assistant foremen will be driving the roads to monitor when they become slick. Once that is determined, staff will be deployed to begin salting.

"Then, as we get that salted, then we will see how much accumulation we get. Then, once that is there, we will be pushing and salting at the same time to try and get the snow off the roadway with a salt barrier down to not let it turn to ice and salt behind it to prevent ice," Shepherd said. "Once they get a route done which will take two or three times, then they will call it a night and start again the next morning."

This action of salting, plowing, and determining specific routes for efficiency is a science, Shepherd said.

"There are no two snows alike. Every snow acts differently, every event acts differently to salt, to pushing," he said. "There is a time we push without salting and there should be times we are salting and not pushing."

He said these decisions depend on temperature and timing.

"Every route is strategic. We have taken our mapping system and mapped these roads, we have checked the mileage on these roads to see where it is going to take (the drivers) and where they will end up, empty, when they would need fuel," he said. "Everything is put into our removal program to remove as much snow as possible in the most efficient way."

County Judge Executive Reagan Taylor and Public Information Officer Jill Williams agreed.

"There is a logistics standpoint too, about when you are doing a snow route and when you run out of salt, you know, and when you are doing a route, you are trying to coordinate it for when you are going to run out of salt so you are back closer to the salt garage to refill," Taylor said. "So instead of running out of salt all the way out on Long Branch in Red Lick and having to turn around and backtrack to fill back up on salt, you are going to try to run out closer to the salt barn at road South so it is more efficient."

What helps the process remain more efficient, Taylor said, is open communication with the public.

"The best thing is communication and positivity in an event like that. In any kind of emergency, not acting out of emotion and frustration, getting the facts of what is going on is great. Not feeding off of negativity and criticisms of social media and giving employees the support they need and deserve for trying to work and serve and provide a safe environment for our citizens," the judge said. "Our team has worked very hard for preparing, accommodating, and providing an outstanding service and it is not easy to be out in some areas of our county at 3 a.m. — pushing snow is dangerous and not thinking the worst without knowing the facts."

Shepherd also stressed to citizens and motorists if you don't have to be on the roadways, please don't be. In addition, when residents attempt to park their vehicle, please put it in the driveway and give the department a safer, and more effective way to clear snow.

"When we have to dodge cars when we move snow, it will leave someone blocked in. It is always great to give us extra room on the road. ... If people will slow down and move over and give us room to get by, we are trying to do what we can as fast as we can, and as safely as we can," Shepherd said. "We definitely don't want to hit someone with one of those plows. We are all on the same team and we all want the same thing. We want the roads cleaned as soon as possible so we can go home and go to bed, too."

To view the Snow Tracks site, visit