Winning Snowplow Names Bring Smiles

These light-hearted contests share important information.

Jan 2, 2023


Winning Snowplow Names Bring Smiles | These light-hearted contests share important information.

With bitterly cold weather expected to blanket much of the United States this winter, road safety is paramount for states experiencing extreme snow conditions. Enter Buzz Iceclear, The Big LePlowski, Ctrl-Salt-Delete, Clearopathra, and Snowbi Wan Kenobi, the popularly named plows that are clearing roads for home-bound residents, reported NPR .

While the most recent state to hold a name-that-snowplow contest was Ohio, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MinDOT) was one of the first departments in the US to start holding snowplow naming contests. 

The department’s spokesperson Anne Meyer told NPR that more than 24,000 suggestions for its inaugural contest were received in 2020 and more than 11,000 last year. This year’s contest was closed for suggestions on December 16, 2022 though MinDOT has yet to announce its winners.

In Ohio, the second annual naming contest drew more than 5,000 submissions. Ohio Turnpike officials picked out the top 50 names and put them to a public vote. The winning names included such gems as The Blizzard of Oz and, You’re Killin’ Me Squalls, a reference to the 1993 movie, The Sandlot.

A personal connection
The contests offer a personal connection to something that they have always take for granted.“We’ve been able to have fun with a lighthearted contest but deliver an important message along the way about safety and driving tips when snowplow drivers are out working,” Jake Loesch, MinnDOT’s director of communications and public engagement, told the Center for Environmental Excellence organization. 

“Levels of community engagement are always difficult to gauge, even if you have the resources to commit to truly scientific surveys,” said Jeff Cranston, Michigan DOT communications director. “But I would say any [state] DOT initiative that prompts more than 15,000 responses, and counting demonstrates a connection with some part of the audience.”

When DOT workers in South Dakota brought a snowplow to an elementary school as part of their community outreach in 2021, teacher Tina Lee was moved emotionally by the massive piece of equipment, reported the Yankton Daily.

That’s because her father was a longtime South Dakota DOT employee. The snowplow symbolized his dedication to keeping others safe during snow and ice storms. She used the snowplow’s visit as a way to teach her students about the important work that highway employees perform as part of their duties.

Humanizing DOT workers

While it is easy to get angry at the snowplow driver who blocked your driveway or buried your car, the contests are a good way to humanize DOT workers. In fact, “That’s why we do the contest,” Julie Stevenson, South Dakota DOT’s strategic communications coordinator, told the Center. 

“We use the contest as a way to share vital information. The ultimate goal is to humanize the snowplow operators.” This is also a way to keep these essential workers safe.

In February, 2022, New York State DOT commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez christened Howe’s Plow as the winner of the Department’s first Name a Plow contest, which took place in 2021, according to a NY Dot press release. The winning name is a tribute to Dennis “Matt” Howe, a highway maintenance worker who died in a work zone accident caused by a distracted tractor-trailer driver.

“It’s a fitting tribute to Matt’s memory that more than two-thirds of the votes cast in this contest went to Howe’s Plow,” Dominguez said in the press release. “I hope it serves as a reminder to drivers to slow down and move over for the safety of the mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters driving plows and doing other essential road work year-round to keep travelers safe.” 

In these snowy times, keeping the roads clear and open for essential travel is vital. So plow on, Blizzard Wizard!

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An award-winning poet and author, Miriam is a freelance writer with a passion for telling stories. When she’s not writing, Miriam loves to read, cook, and take long walks.