If you are driving down a two- or three-lane highway in New York State during this snow season, and you see a trailer starting to jack-knife behind a plow truck, don’t worry about it. It is just the newest trick in the book for NYS Department of Transportation in its battle against 100-inch plus snowfall in upstate New York. Made by Viking-Cives Incorporated in Harrisville, New York, the rigs were tested in the Rochester area last winter, and the state liked them enough to order 62 for use on Empire State highways.
The Tow-Plow operates as a 13-foot side wing mounted to a ballasted tow-behind trailer. The driver of the plow truck operates two controls to make the plow do its work. One raises and lowers the blade, similar to how the front plow is activated, but the second control angles the trailer wheels and swivel tongue attached to the plow truck to make the Tow-Plow appear to be crab-walking down the road. The odder it looks, the wider the path it is clearing. When attached to a standard DOT snow-plowing truck with a conventional 12-foot blade, the Tow-Plow effectively doubles the rig’s efficiency, at a fraction of the cost of a second truck. The hydraulics allow the driver to widen or narrow the path of the blade as obstacles (such as broken-down cars) are encountered, but don’t expect them to go to all that trouble for your mailbox or the end of your driveway.
Ample hazard lighting is positioned at the rear of the Tow-Plow but the odd appearance of the plow doing its job at first glance is sure to mess with someone’s “squinting through the snowstorm” eyes. And, of course, like any snow plow, drivers are warned not to pass any plow while it is in operation. This is doubly true with Viking-Cives Tow-Plow rig. The trailer can be operated at speeds up to 55 mph and the towing truck requires a 90,000-lb. pintle hook, a seven-wire trailer plug rigged for ABS, a generic trailer air brake delivery system and two hydraulic remotes, one single-action and one double-action.
New York is a little late getting on board with the unit as DOTs from 11 other states and the Kansas Turnpike have already begun using the Tow-Plow in previous winter seasons. New York State DOT also added backup cameras to their plow trucks to allow the driver additional visibility, and all of their plow truck drivers have undergone a full 12 hours of training for the new plowing rig.