Michigan DOT invents a light stick to make wing plows more visible in the Upper Peninsula

Updated Mar 8, 2016
The Superior Stick in use on a roadway in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.The Superior Stick in use on a roadway in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has added light sticks to the ends of wing plows used in operations in the Upper Peninsula to make the machinery more visible to motorists. The lighting system has been dubbed the Superior Stick.

Wing plows can help a standard plow truck clear 14 feet in one pass, increasing its capacity by nearly half. This speeds up the work, and cuts down on fuel costs and labor time, because an entire travel lane and part of a shoulder can be cleared in one pass.

The Superior Stick, developed by Tom Deschaine and Jason Rinkinen at MDOT’s L’Anse Maintenance Facility, attaches to the end of the plow and extends and retracts with the blade. They do not require their own hydraulic systems to extend them from the body of the truck, as do existing lighting systems.

“We have this innovative wing plow but, where we needed it, we had a lot of intersections, passing relief lanes and business entrances where we couldn’t use it,” says L’Anse Maintenance Supervisor John Dault. “This light makes the wing plow acceptable. We’ve innovated a feature that really works.”

The first of these lights were built at the L’Anse facility using repurposed spare materials, but some of the current Superior Sticks are built by Johnson & Berry Manufacturing in L’Anse. MDOT says it will share the original concept with other interested manufacturers.

All MDOT trucks with wing plows in the agency’s Superior Region are using the new lighting stick, and a few trucks with wing plows near Traverse City and the Lansing/Ann Arbor area have been outfitted with the devices as well.

“When the results and feedback are in from more extended use in Superior Region, then I anticipate greater use,” MDOT’s Engineer of Operations Field Services Mark Geib says.