WITH budgets that still have not returned to pre-Great Recession levels, municipalities and their equipment managers must prioritize versatility and reliability in their truck-purchasing decisions.

The Shawano County (Wisconsin) Highway Department is overcoming these challenges with specialized trucks.

Utilizing Western Star 4700SF combination dump/plow trucks, Shawano County tackles road work year-round for the county's nearly 900 square miles of land. The county utilizes the trucks to haul asphalt and gravel in the summer, then converts them to plows with self-installed equipment in the winter, reducing the need to purchase and maintain separate equipment for seasonal jobs.

With ongoing road maintenance and an average of four feet of snow every year, downtime isn't an option for Shawano County.

Shop foreman Rick Grunewald said the county started building its own trucks two years ago in its four-bay, 80'×150' shop.

“We put it out on bids,” he said. “All equipment and hydraulics are bid separately. We usually take low bid, but we watch and make sure we get the right equipment that fits together. Basically we get the chassis, hydraulics, box, and plow separate and we put it all together here in our own shop. The hydraulics and boxes come mainly from Casper's Truck Equipment (in Appleton, Wisconsin), and the plows and wing from Monroe.”

They use a Western Star 4700SF, 4000 Allison automatic transmission and DD13 Detroit engine, with 20,000-lb axles front and rear. They also have a tri-axle with 410 hp and 4000 transmission.

“We usually bid them out in January and put them together in the summer,” he said. “We did five trucks in less than two months.”