Bye-bye, beep-beep: New backup signal coming to a snowplow near you

It's been decided: Ottawa's entire fleet of snow-removal vehicles will soon whoosh rather than beep when they back up.

Broadband 'whoosh-whoosh' could be safer than traditional tonal alarm, city says

A city sidewalk plow gets down to work at the corner of Somerset and Lyon streets on Dec. 19, 2017. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

It's been decided: Ottawa's entire fleet of snow-removal vehicles will soon whoosh rather than beep when they back up.

According to a memo to the mayor and city councillors from Don Dinelle, the city's director of fleet services, 302 plows, sidewalk machines, loaders, graders and combo trucks will be fitted with the gentler broadband back-up alarms instead of the more piercing "beep-beep" signals in time for next winter.

That includes 62 vehicles already involved in a pilot project in six central wards that began in the 2017-18 season. 

According to Dinelle, an evaluation of the pilot completed in January concluded "the broadband alarms achieved the goal of reducing nuisance noise where it was not needed, while producing a focused broadband noise directly behind the vehicles when reversing."

The broadband alarms "are not only as safe as the traditional alarms, but in fact may provide more safety. Their sound is focused to the hazard area, adjusts so that it is higher than ambient noise, is more locatable, and uses a larger range of frequencies that may be more effective at penetrating hearing protection and personal headphones," Dinelle said.

According to the memo, feedback gathered from both staff and residents during the pilot was positive.

The entire city fleet of 302 vehicles will be outfitted with the new broadband alarms in time for next winter. (CBC)

Some operators expressed concern that some people might not recognize the new sound, so the city plans to embark on an awareness campaign once all the machines are outfitted, Dinelle said.

Outfitting the remaining fleet will cost $120,000, money set aside by council when it approved the pilot in October 2017.


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