The Ulterior Motive Behind Naming Snowplows

When my family started raising chickens, one of the first things my dad told us kids was “Don’t name the chickens. If you name them, you’ll get attached.” While it was perhaps sound advice, it was advice we summarily ignored. Suffice to say, we grew attached to those chickens, even if they were incapable of feeling the same affection for us, and none of them ever ended up on the dinner table. I tell this story to illustrate that humans can engender affection for just about anything if we give it a name. That includes Utah snowplows. 

This winter, another Utah city has decided to give its snowplows monikers. Sandy City follows the trend established by Scotland and emulated by Utahns in Salt Lake City and Eagle Mountain. Typically, city officials let citizens submit possible names for the plows and vote on them because, perhaps, involving the public in the naming process allows them to establish deeper attachments to the plows. (For example, I named one of my younger sisters and almost 25 years later she’s still my favorite sister.) 

Scotland’s 2021 round of names for snowplows (or “gritters” as they’re called in Scotland) are some of the best there are as submissions really came in hot (or cold?) with the puns. They include James Bond-themed gritter names like, “On Her Majesty’s Slippery Surface,” “Coldfinger,” “Dr. Snow,” “You Only Grit Ice” and “License to Chill,” and Harry Potter-inspired names, “You’re a Blizzard Harry” and “Lord Coldemort.”

Utah Snowplows
Photo courtesy of Sandy City.

Sandy, Utah opened up voting on snowplow names back in May 2022 and announced the top 12 names on Facebook this December: 

  • Plowey McPlowface
  • Blizzard Buster
  • Mister Salty
  • Snow Place Like Sandy
  • Snow Big Deal
  • Darth Blader
  • Whiteout Wizard
  • Catch My Drift
  • Snow Bandit
  • Flurry in a Hurry
  • Snow Way Out
  • Snow Slayer

Eagle Mountain, Utah also gave residents the responsibility of naming its plows, ending up with: 

  • Plowy
  • Plowasaurus Rex
  • Snow Way Jose
  • Slush Puppy
  • Blizzard Wizard
  • Old Salty
  • Scrapes of Wrath

And Salt Lake City residents named their plows in 2021:

  • Sled Zeppelin
  • Flake Effect
  • Snowy McSnowFace
  • Rudy Snobert
  • Jon Bon Snowvi
  • The Notorious P.L.O.W.
  • Ice Eccles
  • Snowbi Wan Kenobi
  • No More Mr. Ice Guy
  • Sugar Plows
Utah Snowplows
Photo courtesy of Sandy City

Naming something might help engender warm and fuzzy feelings, but why cultivate affection for snowplows? A spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), which started naming its snowplows back in 2020, said they hope it builds a sense of appreciation for snowplows and their drivers, which can be something of a thankless job. Spokesperson Anne Meyer told NPR, “Hopefully they also have a new connection with snowplows and drivers, and treat our drivers a little better on the road by staying back and staying safe.”

UDOT also wants the public to get to know their snow removal team to inspire drivers to help keep them safe, sharing a video on Zero Fatalities’ Twitter introducing not just Cottonwood Height’s snowplows but their snowplow drivers as well. 

It is a rough time for snow removal agencies in Western U.S. States, given a snowplow driver shortage. The National Coalition for Open Roads (NCFOR) warned that the shortage could cause snow removal delays. “State transportation officials have repeatedly told us they simply can’t fill many driver positions. In fact, one official recently said he needs 140 new snowplow drivers but due to low wages and other concerns he is having trouble hiring anyone,” says Doug Anderson, the Utah-based chairman of NCFOR.

In the meantime, the snowplow names could come into play. It’s frustrating when it takes a bit longer for plows to clear roads after a big winter storm, and it’s much easier to take out that frustration on nameless plows and drivers than it is to take it out on Meryl Sweep the Tow Plower and her driver Tom. 

If you can’t get enough of snowplows, with their silly names, you can keep an eye on them  through a number of snowplow trackers. Salt Lake City snowplows can be tracked with an interactive map so can Sandy city plows and UDOT plows on the UDOT Traffic app

Christie Porter
Christie Porter
Christie Porter is the managing editor of Salt Lake Magazine. She has worked as a journalist for nearly a decade, writing about everything under the sun, but she really loves writing about nerdy things and the weird stuff. She recently published her first comic book short this year.

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