Editor’s Note: This coverage is a continuation from the June 2011 cover story in Better Roads on the latest in winter maintenance technology.
by Tina Grady Barbaccia
Developed 20 years ago in Germany, the blade was just introduced to the U.S. market two years ago for testing. Being marketed as the Küper GK-5, transportation agency personnel say this blade makes damage of raised pavement markers on roads and highways almost nonexistent, which can prove costly for Departments of Transportation. Damage to the markers can also pose safety issues because it can strip the markers of retroreflectivity, explains Wilf Nixon, Ph.D., P.E., professor of civil and environmental engineering with University of Iowa and a top researcher on winter maintenance.
“It’s a rubber blade with ceramic in it,” Nixon says. “The rubber won’t damage raised pavement markers. Straight rubber curls back under a plow, but with ceramic as part of it, there is stiffness so the rubber will not fold under the full weight of the plow and it cleans the road better.”
Typical rubber face plates have no rigidity, and they are very effective in wet, slushy snow. “It works life a squeegee,” Nixon says. The blade has ceramic cylinders with a steel neck in the top one-third of the blade, which mounts to the plow blade without additional mounting hardware. “The ceramic-rubber blade mix reduces friction,” explains Nixon. “A straight rubber blade going down the road is essentially burning itself up.”
[kaltura-widget wid=”4u8kvz48ps” width=”400″ height=”365″ addpermission=”” editpermission=”” /]Although the blade is being revered as cutting-edge technology (pun intended), there are situations where it would not be applicable. “It doesn’t make sense in very cold areas with hard-packed snow, Nixon says the blade was field tested this past winter in the city of Redmond, Wash., and then tested by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Both groups were very pleased with the lack of damage to their pavement markers as well as the performance and long service life of the GK5.
Why are cutting edges of such significance in the winter maintenance community? Nixon says improving removal of snow and ice is critical to a reduction in resources used and performing winter maintenance more effectively. “If you can get longer life and better overall performance from a blade, it all adds up from a bean counter standpoint.”