This winter, the MTO has fined all of its 21 highway contractors

MANITOULIN—Last week it was reported that all of Ontario’s 21 area maintenance providers had been fined due to poor performance standards, according to Ministry of Transportation (MTO) audits, among them Manitoulin and Sudbury roads contractor DBi Services.

Gordan Rennie, regional issues and media advisor with the MTO, northeast region, explained that the Sudbury area maintenance contract covers Elliot Lake to Hagar and from Point au Baril to north of Cartier, including Manitoulin Island. DBi Services is the sole contractor for the Sudbury maintenance area.

“The ministry monitors the contractor’s operations to ensure they are meeting the requirements of their contract and our high standards for winter maintenance,” Mr. Rennie said. “Through the use of automated vehicle locaters (GPS), ministry staff routinely monitors equipment response times and equipment route times. Snow accumulation, time to achieve bare pavement conditions, radio logs and police call reports and road monitoring are also reviewed to ensure maintenance standards are met. If we find that an operational requirement is not met, we impose consequences in order to compel the contractor to review and modify their operations to ensure that requirements are met in the future.”

“In Northeastern Ontario, MTO has five maintenance areas maintained by four separate maintenance contractors—DBi Services (Sudbury), Transfield Services (North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie), Carillion Canada (Huntsville) and IMOS (New Liskeard-Cochrane),” Mr. Rennie continued. “This winter has seen non-conformances to our outcome targets being imposed in all five maintenance areas leading to financial consequences being issued.”

Mr. Rennie explained that the ministry does not disclose individual payment issues, as this is part of the contract with each of Ontario’s 21 contractors.

Examples of fines for non-conformance, however, are: 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.

Mr. Rennie also provided background on the five road classes within the province and the frequency a plow must be on the road. Class 1 highways, such as the 400 series, have an allowance of eight hours until plowed/scraped to bare pavement with a snowplow pass at least every 1.6 hours; Class 2 (Highway 6 from Espanola to Little Current or Highway 17) has eight hours to bare pavement with a snowplow pass at least every 2.2 hours; Class 3 (Highway 540) 24 hours to bare pavement with a snowplow pass at least every 3.3 hours; Class 4 (Highway 6 from South Baymouth to Little Current) has 24 hours to become centre bare with a snowplow pass of at least every 5.5 hours; and Class 5 (Highway 542) highways must have the road restored to snowpacked within 24 hours with a pass of the plow/spreader at least every 10 hours.

Shortly after the story of non-conformance fines made headlines, Minister of Transportation Glen Murray issued the following statement:

“As Minister of Transportation, I take my responsibility for the safety of Ontario’s highways very seriously,” the minister began. “As you’re aware, this winter has been an extremely challenging one, with numerous snow events and frigid temperatures. However, challenging weather is no excuse when the safety of the people traveling on Ontario’s roads and highways is at stake.”

“This winter, we announced that 50 additional combination snowplow/spreader units and five tow plows would be on the roads this winter, 42 of them in Northern Ontario (EDITOR’S NOTE: one of which is stationed in Little Current),” Minister Murray continued. “These additional vehicles, which are now on our roads, are essential to plowing and salting to keep our highways safe.”

“Regardless of the location of the highway in Ontario, our winter standards are consistent,” the minister stated. “Our maintenance contractors are required to meet those standards no matter where they’re working. I acknowledge that there have been cases where contractors have not met these standards. As a result, MTO staff have taken action, resulting in appropriate financial consequences and will take stronger action if significant improvements are not forthcoming.”

“Our maintenance contracts include approximately 30 different performance outcome targets related to winter maintenance,” Minister Murray continued. “As well, as part of our commitment to oversight, the ministry has a regular and random review/audit program for all contracts across Ontario.”

“If any Ontarian has a concern about the work that is being done on the province’s roads, I want to hear from them. Please email us at winterhighways@ontario.ca and let us know what you’re seeing, both good and bad. As well, let the area maintenance contractors know what you’re seeing.”

“Working together, we can continue to keep our roads safe for everyone. That’s my commitment to all people of Ontario,” the minister concluded. (The audio version of this statement can be found on our website, www.manitoulin.ca).

Alicia McCutcheon