ONTARIO—The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has seen the number of fines issued for the 2016/2017 winter season to road contractors drop to less than a quarter of last season’s (2015/2016) amount.
“To date, for the 2016/2017 winter season, $680,000 in financial consequences have been assessed for the 19 contracts across the province,” said MTO Media and Issues Advisor Lara Cantin. “While the ministry does not disclose the value of financial non-conformance penalties applied to individual contractors, we can report that for the 2015/2016 winter season, $3,255,000 in penalties was assessed to MTO’s contractors across Ontario.”
As for the conditions of the roads locally, Ms. Cantin commented, “Specific to the Sudbury maintenance area, ministry staff have observed an improvement in DBI’s performance this past winter.”
The MTO previously provided examples of fines for non-conformance such as: failure to begin plowing once snow reaches two centimeters, an initial $5,000 per vehicle and a subsequent $1,000 for each additional 30 minute delay until the problem is corrected. For failure to begin spreading (salt) within 30 minutes, contractors will be faced with an initial $5,000 per vehicle penalty and a subsequent $1,000 for each additional 15 minute delay until the salt is spread.
“The Ministry of Transportation is committed to keeping Ontario’s highways as safe as possible during winter weather conditions,” stated Ms. Cantin. “Significant efforts are made in order to make Ontario’s 16,600 kilometres of highways safe and to provide efficient winter maintenance services for the public. The ministry continually reviews standards, new technology, equipment and materials to improve winter maintenance practices. All of these efforts contribute to Ontario’s record of having among the safest roads in North America.”
Ms. Cantin said that beginning in 2010, the ministry tendered 20 longer-duration (eight to 12 years) maintenance contracts covering the province. “In 2013, after an internal review, and in 2015 as identified in the Auditor General’s report, these contracts were not meeting the expectations of the travelling public,” she added. “As a result, the ministry has been both making improvements to the contracts and taking steps to hold our contractors accountable for their performance.”
“Through the ministry staff’s ongoing oversight, a maintenance contractor who does not fulfill their contract requirements can be subject to a non-conformance report that could result in payment deductions,” Ms. Cantin continued. “These financial consequences can be waived if the circumstances that led to the non-conformance were beyond the care and control of the contractor, for instance, congestion or a collision that prevents a plow from completing its route or reduced visibility that requires a plow to slow down for safety.”
Under the contracts, contractors can challenge the consequences through a dispute resolution process, explained Ms. Cantin. “While some financial consequences may go uncollected until the process is complete, that does not mean that the ministry is not taking appropriate action to pursue the collection of these financial consequences,” she shared. “Financial consequences are intended to strongly discourage not meeting contract requirements, and encourage contractors to make the necessary changes to improve their performance. However, if a contractor’s performance continues to decline and they have failed to demonstrate that changes have been made to remedy the situation, in addition to payment deductions, the ministry can take actions to terminate a contract.”
Although the number of financial consequences for Ontario road contractors is significantly less than last winter, Ms. Cantin said there could be additional fines that were issued after March 31.