Evaluation of Urethane Snow Plow Blades as an Alternative to Rubber Blades

Report No: 96-R2

Published in 1995

About the report:

The purpose of this study was to determine if urethane blades are a suitable alternative to rubber blades for use on snowplows. The importance of finding a suitable alternative is due to the anticipated increased need to protect the new, longer lasting, and expensive preformed tape now being introduced as pavement markings in Virginia. Two sites were selected to test urethane blades, and six sites were selected to test robber blades. The study reviewed the cost and quality of snow removal for each type of blade. The study found that urethane blades cleaned the roadway surface better than robber blades but were subject to the same problem of low durability. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) uses a plowing method that places the full weight of the plow on the blade. This method results in high friction between the blade and the road surface, which causes the blades to wear quickly. The rapid disintegration of the blades within a single snow event makes life-cycle cost a moot point. Limited data, however, indicated that the life-cycle cost of urethane blades was 6.5 times greater than that of robber blades. Many airports extend the blade life of urethane blades on their plows by removing the weight of the plow from the blade through the installation of wheels on the plow. Since the conditions under which VDOT currently uses rubber blades is similar to airport conditions, the study recommends that VDOT plows be modified to take the plow's weight off the blade and that urethane blades be substituted for rubber blades. The study was unable to determine if the use of wheel-supported plows equipped with urethane blades would sharply reduce damage to pavement markings. The study recommends that an additional study be conducted in the coming winter season to determine the effect of properly supported urethane blades on pavement markings and the suitability of urethane blades for snow removal under a wider range of conditions.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


  • Daniel S. Roosevelt

Last updated: December 17, 2023

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