Images courtesy of City of Mississauga
Today marks the first day of spring and, with winter storms still ravaging the continent, most North Americans want to put winter firmly behind them. But for some, winter endures in relatively balmy Charlotte, North Carolina, host city to this year’s American Public Works Association (APWA) Snow Show. On April 7, more than 1,500 “snowfighters” will descend on Charlotte for four days of networking, technical tours, and educational programs. For those attending, one highlight not to miss is hearing Bob Levesque’s success story from the City of Mississauga’s Works Operations department. I phoned Bob to get a sneak preview into the issues he’ll be describing in Charlotte.
Risk Mitigation is Foresight
Bob shows me a picture of a sidewalk plow. It looks like an ordinary urban winter scene in Ontario—a plow, a parked car, a small brick fence by a neighbour’s front yard. Bob sees much more than I do. “If the plow operator isn’t careful”, Bob points out, “he or she could shred the side of the car at the curb”. Then he points out that the neighbour’s decorative brick fence is encroaching on City property and that there are other unknown hazards hidden in the snow.
There are other types of liability too. In the days before Works Operations had implemented their InterFleet GPS/AVL solution (2010), it was very difficult to prove that the department had plowed a street to standard in the event of a complaint or a law suit. “Now we have hard data,” Levesque says, underscoring a certain level of shared responsibility between the City and its residents to take care in winter conditions. “Citizens have to dress appropriately for winter conditions, and we have to provide due diligence in keeping a minimum standard for cleared roads and sidewalks.”
He cites another time when he received a call from the police department about a particularly icy hill. Bob was able to respond immediately by dispatching a salter truck to the hill, thereby preventing a car pile up. With several more examples, Bob convinced me that the best use of a GPS/AVL winter maintenance solution is foresight—knowing what’s going on in real-time allows Operations to make better and quicker decisions about situations before they escalate.
“Our goal is to catch a missed street and dispatch a plow there even before it gets back to the yard.”
—Bob Levesque, Operations, City of Mississauga
Faster than a Speeding…Snow Plow?
Everyone wants his or her street plowed first and fast, and that puts a lot of pressure on Public Works departments. It comes as something of a surprise then that one of complaints plow operators get is speeding snow plows! Bob attributes this to an optical illusion created by a truck with its plow blade down, “It may be going only 25 mph, but it appears to be going much faster”. He also describes that the salt controller is attached to the speedometer, so a genuinely speeding snow plow would leave an erratic trail of salt in its wake (perhaps the source of citizen complaints?). Nonetheless with GPS/AVL, the department has speeding covered too as InterFleet can provide reports showing vehicle speeds along routes.
Winter Light Up
Before next winter, Bob plans to take advantage of InterFleet’s Winter Light Up program to ensure that fleet and drivers are ready to go for next year. “Getting prepared ahead of time is going to help in the long run”, says Levesque. Aside from the usual readiness preparations needed after a long hot summer—plows ready, drivers retrained, contractors engaged, and so on—there are sometimes unexpected surprises. “Last year we had a plow reporting in from somewhere in Europe”, Bob says adding that older vehicles are sometimes sold at auctions over the summer months and this one had apparently gone overseas with its Locator still installed. I’m just thinking, “now that, I want to see on a map—with breadcrumbs”.
Come Down to Charlotte for the Snow
If you’re attending the APWA Snow Show in Charlotte, make sure you catch Bob Levesque’s presentation, Reducing Liability and Improving Winter Operations Using a GPS/AVL Solution.