Climate change isn't the only thing having an impact on how the Porter County Highway Department handles the roads in the winter.
Bids were opened on the lease/purchase of five new trucks at Tuesday's Porter County Board of Commissioners meeting. The trucks, equipped with snow plows and salt spreaders, will replace the last of the highway department's trucks that are about 15 years old.
Supervisor Al Hoagland will have a recommendation of which bid to accept at the commissioners' next meeting. The apparent low bidder was Truck City, in Gary, at $970,000.
Hoagland and Commissioner President John Evans reminisced at the bid opening about the sorry state of the county's snow plowing equipment in the past. Evans recalled how drivers had to lean to the left to shift gears because of holes in the floor created by rust and corrosion.
The highway department would have as few as seven trucks to plow about 900 miles of county roads because of breakdowns. With the five new trucks, it will have a fleet of 37 on the roads and save $40,000 to $70,000 in annual maintenance and repairs on the old trucks.
"It's hard to imagine how far the equipment has come in the 30-some years I've been here," Hoagland said. "Nobody back then made anything that was specific to the task at hand. We put plows on farm trucks or whatever we could get."
Some of the problems they had to deal with until then were engines more powerful than the frames could handle. If the driver tried to accelerate quickly through a snow drift, the frame would twist and cause the fan to tear up the radiator. The plows were fixed in one direction.
"The average pickup truck on the road now has more power than we used to have with the plows," Hoagland said.
The corrosive effects of the salt meant the department had to replace the truck beds every four or five years. The county switched to stainless steel beds, and now the beds outlast the trucks, he said.
"It's a world of difference now," he said.