Advanced telematics for winter maintenance

The APWA (American Public Works Association) Expo in Toronto August 17-20, was my first public works event. For me the highlight of the event  was the Winter Maintenance Best Practices seminar by Dominic Guthrie, John Paul Johnson and Warren Nicholishen from Toronto, Wellington, and Richmond Hill respectively.

While I have grinned through many winters in Toronto, I had not reflected on the scale of challenges facing Dominic and his team for winter maintenance needs. Their maintenance program includes clearing snow, salting, sanding, and de-icing of roads and sidewalks as well as trail tracks in the parks.

Dominic noted that equipment logistics is one the biggest challenges faced by the Toronto team. No surprise there given they have to keep Toronto’s roads and 6000 KMs of sidewalks clear using

  • 570 road plows,
  • 322 sidewalk plows, and
  • 200 salt trucks

One of the staggering facts about the city of Toronto’s winter maintenance that sticks in mind is that we use 131,000 tons of salt per year at a cost of $7.5 million! The total winter maintenance budget is close to $60 million a year.

After listening to Dominic and his colleague discuss the best practices of winter maintenance, I have a fuller appreciation for their need for advanced computerization and telematics to operate the plows and salt trucks. These new advanced telematics solutions integrated with cameras give the public works managers better handle on keeping the cost down while providing citizens better services.

I am certain, I won’t look at a salt spreader or snow plow on a winter road the same way again!