AKRON, Ohio - The city of Akron likes to have 51 snow plows on the roads whenever there is a major snow and ice event, but several plows could be out of service during a storm that could dump six inches or more on Sunday and Monday.
"I don't think we'll be able to put 51 trucks on the road for this event. We'll come as close to that as we can," said Paul Barnett, Akron's public works director.
The bitter cold and unrelenting winter has taken a toll on snow plows. During the last three snow and ice events, 20 to 25 trucks went down.
Currently, 16 trucks are out of service. Half of those need repairs that will take one to three weeks.
"We've had motors down, transmissions going out. The wiring, sometimes that's a long-term issue, especially on the older trucks," said mechanic Pat Fey.
Barnett said many of the repairs are expensive. For example, replacing a blown engine costs between $12,000 and $17,000 and a new transmission for a plow runs $16,000.
The high amount of salt used this season is a major reason for the breakdowns.
Barnett explained how salt rusted out a cage below a plow's hopper, rendering the vehicle useless. Veteran mechanic Ernie Steele explained that road salt was also the culprit for a rusted oil pan he replaced on Friday.
Fey has worked on several trucks with salt-related damage.
"It gets up in the engine compartments. It rots wires off. It does all kind of damage to the metal."
Mechanics will work overtime on Saturday and Sunday, hoping to get at least eight of the broken-down salt trucks returned to the fleet.
"Cold weather takes a big toll on equipment so we have to maintain them. That's what they pay us for," said Steele.
Barnett said snow plowers drivers get "all of the glory" when a storm hits, but residents forget the maintenance part of fighting winter.
"They don't see the mechanics that are busting their butts to get those trucks out."