Nfld. & Labrador

Highway snowclearing: What does 'all available equipment' really mean?

The province's explanation that "all available equipment" is on the roads is misleading, says Independent MHA Paul Lane.

Availability report shows major depots had 50 per cent or less of equipment available on certain days

Highway maintenance depots, like the one shown, sometimes operate with less than 50 per cent of snowclearing equipment available, according to a recent availability report. (CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has been facing a lot of criticism this winter related to snowclearing, but the response that all "available" equipment is on the roads could be misleading, says Independent MHA Paul Lane.

Lane recently posted a report on social media that shows the availability of snowclearing equipment on the Avalon Peninsula for Dec. 29-30 and Jan. 2-3.

While it is only a sample of four days during the holidays, Lane said the fact that on one day only 22 per cent equipment was available at a major highway depot like Donovans — which services major traffic arteries around St. John's — is alarming.

See Lane's full post of the report below:

Lane told the St. John's Morning Show that he was surprised to see that depots responsible for high traffic areas would have so much equipment not available, so he decided to look into why so many plows were not working.

"What I've been told is that there is a shortage of mechanics," he said. 

"I've been told there is a number of pieces of equipment that are broken down and they just don't have the mechanical staff to repair it."

Paul Lane is raising questions after getting his hands on a report showing recent availability of snowclearing equipment on the Avalon Peninsula. (CBC)

Breakdowns 'common': Minister

Cabinet minister Eddie Joyce, who's been acting as Transportation Minister, said on Tuesday that the equipment breakdowns are "just part of it." 

He said that equipment reports are generated at 5 a.m. each day, and mechanics usually arrive at about 8 a.m. — which means some equipment which is marked offline is back up and running that same day.

He said breakdowns are a "common occurrence," especially when the machines are faced with heavy snow. According to Joyce, schedulers and supervisors will move equipment between routes if needed.

"With the type of work that the heavy equipment is involved with, there will be breakdowns," Joyce said.

The minister said the clear weather on Tuesday meant machines were undergoing repairs, and getting road-ready.

Eddie Joyce, who is acting as Transportation Minister, said equipment breakdowns are inevitable. (CBC)

Lane said he looked for the availability reports after recently hearing Joyce's responses to snowclearing concerns.

He said he understands that plows and salt/sand trucks have to be maintained, but wonders why there aren't more maintenance people on hand to keep up. He wants government to be more forthcoming about exactly how much equipment is actually out on the roads.

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