Speed the plow
In the interest of staying with the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid), we offer this primer on winter. Clouds come: snow falls. Snow falls on road: road slippery and dangerous. Plows and crews are available. Plows clear and salt road: road meets standards of basic safety. People get where they are going safely. If only it was that simple. Right now, a snowstorm doesn’t go by in this province without harrowing stories of how horrendous the roads are — ambulance operators airing concerns about safety, regular police reports about cars off the road, drivers unable to complete their travels.
The general public isn’t completely blameless here. Anyone who drives the province’s highways regular knows that there is a blatant disregard shown for road conditions, especially for snow and ice. Drivers seem unprepared for anything like a change in conditions and regularly drive faster than conditions permit.
That being said, there are some basic situations that the public should be able to expect. First, that when bad weather conditions are forecast, agencies responsible for snowclearing should at least be ready and waiting to provide a service. If there’s a 90 per cent chance of snow, crews shouldn’t be waiting for a supervisor to determine that, “yes, that is actually snow falling and we should make the call.”
A stitch in time, perhaps, saves nine cars off the road.
It’s downright comical that private operators can be ready and waiting for snow on private parking lots, while city and provincial plows seem to be hopelessly taken by surprise whenever snow starts.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, when we’re in the midst of the winter season, snowclearing equipment should be in good repair and roadworthy.
Tuesday, a report in this newspaper outlined how, at two of the province’s largest highways depots, a Monday storm saw only 56 per cent of snowclearing equipment in good enough repair to hit the road.
At the Foxtrap depot, there have been days when as little as 22 per cent of equipment was ready and able to plow roads. At the Donovans depot, at one point, only one-third of the available equipment was roadworthy. On top of that, there have been persistent shortages of mechanics to repair the equipment.
Drivers can’t make sensible decisions about how and when to travel if the standards for highway and secondary road snowclearing aren’t consistent. By its very nature, having large numbers of plows out of commission means that drivers can’t make reasonable choices, because there’s no way to be assured of whether provincial plows will even meet their own basic standards.
As the highways department likes to tell us, “Snow means slow.” They are right. But more than that: maybe we could add, “Snow means plow”?
And to get back to the KISS principle? Plow broken? Fix plow.