Shock-absorbing snowplow invention earns Otter Tail Hwy. Dept. ‘Innovation Award’

Otter Tail County Highway Department has been awarded first place in Minnesota Local Technical Assistance Program’s (LTAP) ‘Build a Better Mousetrap Competition.’ 

Otter Tail County’s first place entry of the Otter Plow Cushion, which is saving time and money during the winter snowplow season, will be entered in the national ‘Build a Better Mousetrap’ competition to be held in July.

The Otter Plow Cushion, designed by highway maintenance staff, has received state-wide attention for its innovation. Minnesota LTAP’s award recognizes technical solution designs to common problems that county transportation staff encounter. 

Minnesota LTAP’s mission is to “improve the skills and knowledge of local transportation agencies through training, technical assistance, and technology transfer.” 

The problem that Otter Tail County highway maintenance faced was the stress that rough, wintery road surfaces placed on the snowplow lift chains. 

Broken lift chains were a common occurrence and would take snowplows off the roads at peak times. The innovative solution was a result of maintenance personnel taking the opportunity of down time to work on a fix to the broken lift chains.

“We have a talented crew on staff that teamed up to find a solution to this problem. Otter Tail County Highway Department has become a leader in transportation innovation and safety,” remarked Rick Hoium, Otter Tail County Highway Maintenance Supervisor. “We are proud to have earned this award.”

The original cushion was made from spare parts. The Otter Plow Cushion absorbs the shock of the rough roads on the plow assembly and lift chains. 

By absorbing the shock, thus improving the quality of the ride of the snowplow, fewer plow chains were being broken. This solution meant snowplows would not have to be taken off the road when they were needed during snow events. 

Additional Otter Plow Cushions have been made for each plow at the cost of $431 per plow.

Otter Tail County’s first place entry of the Otter Plow Cushion will be entered in the national ‘Build a Better Mousetrap’ competition to be held in July.

To watch a short video on the Otter Plow Cushion please visit: https://youtu.be/4REZ_WIW0Kc