Imagine a country of vast, densely forested expanses, towering peaks and deep valleys surrounded by stormy seas. Imagine a country with a total coastline of nearly 60,000 km, stretching from warm, Gulf Stream currents to the cold depths of the Barents Sea. Imagine a country whose 4.4 million people live in widely dispersed communities, making them heavily dependent on a road system subject to Arctic conditions up to 6 months of the year at its most northern locations, and rapidly changing conditions along the more temperate southern coast.
Traffic challenges in Norway are related to the widely varied landscape and the constantly shifting weather conditions experienced by the driver, particularly during autumn and spring. Many of Norway's major roads transverse high mountain passes and other exposed areas. Given a country which may, in certain locations, experience snow conditions even in summer, it is not difficult to understand why Norwegians have become experts in winter road maintenance.
The Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA) operates and maintains some 5,000 snowploughs, 180 snowblowers and 250 graders to keep winter roads clear and traffic and commerce flowing. One of the major obstacles they face comes not from the weather, but from the motorists. In the winter season, most Norwegian vehicles are still equipped with studded tires which wear down asphalt and leave ruts in the road surface, making snow clearing an even more difficult task.
In recent years, the NPRA has been cooperating with the Norwegian company Scana Stavanger to develop and test a new combi cutting edge consisting of a scraper blade on which three separate U-shaped steel plates with soldered tungsten carbide edges are joined with a rubber coating. The combination of steel and rubber mounted in three lengths gives the edge a new flexibility, enabling it to follow the road surface into the ruts left by traffic. Results thus far have been promising, showing that the new combi-edge is more effective, more economic, less damaging to road markings and quieter than conventional scrapers.
Another solution to this same problem is the design of new types of snow-clearing machines. The NPRA has collaborated with Øveraasen AS and Offshore Industri Service Hydraulikk A/S in the development of the Slapsekaren (pictured above), a truck with two large brushes mounted in front and underneath the vehicle designed to sweep the slush out of road ruts. In addition, the vehicle is equipped with a 5,000 litre salt brine tank, pump and spray apparatus for simultaneously dispersing salt on roads up to a width of 3.5 m. Winter maintenance with this equipment provides snow and slush-free road surfaces with a number of additional advantages: up to a 50 per cent reduction in salt use, less dust pollution, and considerably reduced need for spring cleaning.
On the more traditional front, Norwegian companies such as Øveraasen AS continue to refine their snow-removal products to maintain a strong market position both in Norway and abroad.