Friction sensors help Colorado DOT improve winter road safety while saving an estimated $1 million+ in material costs.

CDOT tests friction sensors that assess the grit of the roadway, allowing the agency to send equipment or take other steps when the surface is becoming slick.

Date Posted

Friction Sensors Help CDOT Save Money and Improve Winter Road Safety [Winter Operations]

Summary Information

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is using friction sensors— electronic radars attached to the back end of fleet vehicles— to collect data on the amount of grip present on a roadway, increasing road safety and lowering costs.

The sensors relay information on pavement temperature changes, along with friction and moisture levels present on a roadway, to the Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) where they determine which segments of roadway need salt, liquid materials, plowing, or a combination of treatments. By mapping site-specific data, maintenance workers can focus on areas that need treatment rather than treating whole sections of roadway.


  • In testing these sensors on a small selection of roads, CDOT reduced use of solid materials by 21 percent and liquid materials by 56 percent over the course of three statewide snowstorms - resulting in $180,000 of savings in material costs for CDOT.
  • If implemented State-wide, CDOT estimates these sensors will save over a million dollars per year with the State’s average 15 snowstorms per winter.
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