KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- It's a thankless job, but a necessary one on snowy days. Making sure all 259 miles of Kansas roads in the Kansas City metro are clear.
Rick Looper's the one in charge of it and has been doing it for 29 years. Looper and his crew of 20 trucks and 40 drivers are taking to the streets Sunday making sure the roads will be clear for those traveling later Sunday night and those heading to work or school Monday morning.
"We have twice as much traffic as we did 20 years ago. So that in itself is more of a challenge," Looper said.
This Thanksgiving weekend blizzard probably won't be Looper's last snowstorm, either. But nearly three decades comes with advancements.
"We've changed the ways we've treated and plowed over the years, and made it better."
For example, the mix of treatment put on roads.
"What we put down just depends on the storm," Looper said. "Right now I put down 300 tons of salt per lane mile."
Or the appropriate speed to spread salt.
"The safest speed for us is between 25 and 30 miles per hour," Looper explained. "That way we don't slide off the roadway. We don't destroy our spread pattern for our salt."
Looper also addressed why some plows never seem to stay in one lane.
"You know," he said, with his hands on the wheel, "I'm taking up probably right down the center two lanes right here. But over the years, what I have learned is that this helps the material work better for us."
Of course, there's things he wishes he could teach other drivers.
"The more we can keep people back away from us, the safer it is for us and everybody else."
Looper said he is constantly monitoring people behind him as they come up.
"Making sure they don't get too close. Make sure they pass safely."
Looper said people should be able to see KDOT trucks with no problems.
"If you see us, slow down. You know, it doesn't take you that much longer - what's five minutes?"
KDOT trucks have a lot of tools at their disposal. Flashing lights around the trucks, wing plows on the sides of trucks, four screens projected inside the trucks, and much more. But despite all the new technology at KDOT's disposal, Looper said the best tool is one every good driver should have.
"Our biggest tool is just common sense: just slow down, watch the weather."