The Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) is in the process of reviewing its winter operations with its truck drivers and preparing its trucks and plows in anticipation of the inevitable arrival of winter weather.
Again this year, RCOC is hiring part-time, temporary snowplow/salt-truck drivers to augment its full-time staff. The agency plans to hire approximately 20 temporary drivers.
“Due to the seasonality of the essential services we provide, these part-time workers are a great way to ensure we provide the service that Oakland County residents deserve,” explained RCOC Chair Andrea LaLonde. “With the part-time workers, we expect to have approximately 180 snowplow drivers available this winter.”
RCOC is also continuing to update its fleet of snowplows/salt trucks. “We are gradually replacing our aging fleet of trucks,” said RCOC Vice Chairman Nancy Quarles. “In fiscal year 22, we will add 24 new snowplow/dump trucks to update our fleet,” she added. “As an additional safety feature, the new trucks are equipped with green lights that can be seen from a greater distance during winter maintenance. Pick-up trucks used for winter maintenance are also being equipped with the green lights.”
Road Commissioner Ron Fowkes noted the agency is prepared for whatever Mother Nature brings during the winter, though a milder winter is always appreciated. “Winter maintenance is one of our most critical functions,” he said. “While we are ready for a worse-than-normal winter, we would welcome a mild season.”
LaLonde noted the RCOC team is also constantly looking for best practices when it comes to maintaining roads during the winter months, such as the “wing plows” ordered with new trucks in recent years. “The wing plows extend from the right side of the truck and are retracted when not in use,” LaLonde said.
“They can expand the width of roadway a single truck can plow, enabling trucks to plow a roadway lane and the shoulder at the same time, for example. Equipping many of our trucks with wing plows improves their efficiency,” she noted.
In recent years, RCOC has also implemented a rapid-response plan that includes pickup trucks to more quickly get to isolated icing occurrences and other urgent situations as well as to more quickly get into subdivisions and clear crossovers/turnarounds on boulevards. Additionally, during or following heavy snow events, RCOC uses non-road-maintenance staff to augment its pool of drivers and hires contractors to help on back roads and in subdivisions.
Despite the addition of the part-time, temporary employees and the rapid-response plan, LaLonde explained that motorists must still be vigilant when driving during or immediately after snow events. “Drive for the conditions. That will make a safer environment for everyone on the road,” she explained. She also reminded motorists not to crowd the plow and give the plows “room to groom.”
While RCOC has so far successfully managed the COVID-19 situation, there is always the risk that the pandemic could impact the number of available drivers. “We are working hard to ensure this doesn’t happen,” LaLonde said, “and we have contingency plans should it occur.”
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EDITOR’S NOTE: A fact sheet about RCOC Winter Maintenance operations is attached. Photo of RCOC Managing Director, Dennis Kolar, speaking at the Southfield garage during winter operations review with staff is also attached