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MnDOT: Don't be scared by our snow tow plow truck

The tow plow, which is like two plows in one, helps clear roads faster after it snows.

If you see a giant snowplow that looks like the trailer is spinning off the back of the plow, don't worry – it's just the Minnesota Department of Transportation's tow plow. 

A tow plow is a 26-foot plow with an adjustable blade that's mounted on a trailer and pulled by a tandem-axle snowplow, allowing a plow driver to clear more snow in a single pass than it would with a regular snowplow. 

This is especially handy in the Twin Cities metro where there are multiple-lane highways, MnDOT says.

But apparently, tow plows scare people when they going into action, with some thinking the trailer is spinning off the back of the plow, according to the MnDOT Minute video the department shared Thursday.

It does look a little wonky if you're following a plow and you see the moment the plow operator pulls the lever to activate the tow plow, moving the trailer from the back of the plow to its side.

Here's the tow plow in action: 

But don't worry, it's not broken, MnDOT says. However, it is best to be cautious around it as it does create a large snow wake. 

MnDOT used its MnDOT Minute social media post on Thursday to remind motorists to use caution and stay back at least 10 car lengths when they approach a snowplow ahead of them on the road, which MnFDOT says will keep you and the snowplow driver safe. 

Drivers are also reminded to be patient as snowplows move slower than posted speed limits because it's more effective at clearing the snow, MnDOT's website says.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS), there were 72 crashes involving vehicles that hit snowplows last year. 

The most common cause of crashes with snowplows are inattentive drivers, motorists driving too close to the plow or motorists driving too fast for the road conditions, DPS says.

MnDOT has more than 800 snowplows and 1,800 plow drivers that are tasked with plowing 30,400 lane miles of state highways and interstates across Minnesota (one mile of a four-lane road is four-lane miles) every winter. 

The average lifespan of a plow is 14 years and the tandem-axle snowplows, which pull the tow plow, cost more than $260,000 each. 

But not only are tow plows more effective at clearing snow, they also save taxpayers money. MnDOT said in 2018 that including implementation costs, it saves an estimated $780,000 a year by using tow plows.

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