ELKVIEW, W.Va. -- Melanie Cobb didn't seem especially surprised when the feed belt motor conked out on the back of her Division of Highways salt truck on Thursday, even though it worked fine when she tested it the other day.
"I could probably break an anvil with a rubber mallet," said Cobb, a DOH truck driver who is getting ready for her sixth winter driving a salt truck. "Some days are just like that."
But if a salt truck is going to break down, it's better it happens before the first snowflakes fall. That's why DOH has dry runs to test its trucks and let drivers review their routes every year about this time.
Thursday was the day for DOH District 1, which includes Boone, Clay, Kanawha, Mason and Putnam counties. District 1 manager R.J. Scites said the district operates 110 snow plows, each of which must be tested and adjusted before the arrival of winter.
Scites said it isn't uncommon for something to go wrong with the highways department's snow plow and salt-spreading attachments between spring and winter. He said DOH uses the same trucks year-round but fits them out for plowing and salting during the winter.
"The hydraulics, once they come off in the spring, they just lie there," Scites said. "These are the same trucks we're pothole patching with in the summer."
So when it's time to get ready for snowplow season, the attachments must be put on the trucks, the systems tested and spreader devices calibrated to throw the correct amount of salt. Scites and Cobb said it's good to work out the kinks before drivers have to take the trucks out on snowy roads.
Scites said District 1 usually goes through 30,000 to 50,000 tons of salt a year. Statewide, highways officials currently have 158,000 tons of salt and 260,000 gallons of brine to feed 800 trucks.