Shift into winter

The staff and crews at HMC are ready for whatever winter throws at the North Cariboo

Clockwise from top left: Adam Maglio

With snow already reported in the

outlying areas, Quesnel area

residents need to be prepared

for the inevitable change in seasons, from

fall to winter.

HMC has been preparing for winter since

last April and have almost all their materials

and equipment ready for the toughest

season in the Cariboo.

“We have 85 per cent of our crushing

completed with 85,000 cubic meters of

winter sand already stockpiled plus whatever

remained from last year,” division

manager John Andrushko said.

And in case you were wondering, the size

of the aggregate materials meets the industry

standard of no larger than 12.5 mm.

“Road salt supplies continue to come in.

Both salt brine and the salt trucks for early

onset of freeze/thaw and black ice conditions

are in place.”

Motorists may have noticed the signs

about shifting into winter already on the

side of the road encouraging the switch to

winter tires and changing driving habits to

reflect the need for extra caution, stopping

space and awareness of trucks and equipment.

“We tell people to expect the unexpected,”

Andrushko added.

HMC maintains five road maintenance yards

in Quesnel, Hixon, McLeese Lake, Wells and

Nazko and there are 14 pits strategically placed

to service all the areas. Equipment and trucks

are dispatched directly from these yards to ensure

road maintenance is as immediate as possible.

“We’ve already had five trucks out plowing

and sanding from Nazko and Wells Oct. 1.”

The winter fleet includes 35 winter-ready plow

trucks, nine graders and one towplow, plus 80+

road crew members with the addition of five

hired trucks and two hired graders as required.

The fleet now includes five new wing trucks,

to be deployed primarily to clear highway snow.

They will be distributed throughout HMC’s

coverage area.

Andrushko said these trucks are what’s called

green initiative vehicles with the highest emission

standards required on highway trucks.

“They operate with the newest computerized

controls for materials and hydraulics and have

fully automatic transmissions, which is one less

thing for drivers to worry about, allowing them

to concentrate on safety, efficiency and the job

on hand,” he said.

These 2013 Western Star trucks were purchased

basically as just the cab and rolling chassis

and our excellent team of mechanics have

outfitted them over the past year. It takes about

250 mechanical man hours to outfit each truck.

That’s seven weeks for one mechanic on one

truck.”

As part of their service protocol, HMC meets

with the Ministry of Highways and stakeholders

to get feedback on what they do well and

any areas that may need improvement.

“We are especially attentive of industry

pressures, such as changes in logging activity,

so levels of service can be allocated

efficiently,” Andrushko said.

He was pleased to say they have high employee

retention which translates to very

experienced drivers who know the equipment

and the area.

“Every operator receives annual winter

awareness training and that is currently

being delivered.”

With a goal of being 80 per cent prepared

by Oct. 15, Andrushko said they’re already

there and they’ll be fully operational by

Nov. 1.

“However we’re certainly ready for any

early storm right now. It important we hit

the first couple of storms hard. The driving

public is historically not as prepared as

they could be for those first few storms but

we will be ready.”

He also said motorists have a responsibility

to check with DriveBC and the weather

networks before heading out.

They can also report road conditions

they encounter to HMC through the office,

250-992-8809 or to the after-hours

number 1-866-353-3136 where the operator

will then direct their information to the

correct maintenance yard.

There’s also a new weather station at

Hush Lake and connected to that station are

two new permanent, overhead message boards

which warn motorists of the latest information

on any potential dangers in that area.

And as the time draws near when trucks and

equipment will be on the road, HMC asks the

public to respect the difficult job they do in difficult

conditions.

“Be patient, everyone wants to arrive home

safely. We ask drivers to be especially aware of

the new towplow as it clears a broad swath and

with its articulated, flexible width plowing capability

it will be working multi-lane sections

and some regular roads.”

Throughout the discussion of winter preparedness,

Andrushko stressed that safety was

the first priority, for his crews and the driving

public.

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