TORONTO, Ont. — Ontario and its snow removal contractors may have to order some new equipment.
A report from the Auditor General found that service levels performed by contractors has declined and that available equipment for snow and ice removal from roads is insufficient.
The province’s transportation minister, Steven Del Duca, vowed to address the problem.
The shortcomings were outlined in a 43-page report titled Winter Highway Maintenance. While the report indicated Ontario has trimmed winter maintenance costs, it now takes longer to clear highways during and after a storm.
Six of 20 contract areas did not meet the province’s standards for timely snow removal, 90% of the time. Also, the time it took to clear highways after a storm increased from an average of 2.1 hours to 4.7 hours in the winter of 2013-2014.
“Today’s report has confirmed what we already knew: despite the improvements we have made – the additional equipment, additional oversight and organizational changes – the current system of winter highway maintenance needs to be better,” said Del Duca.
He said the Ministry has already added more than 100 pieces of equipment and strengthened oversight. The just-announced provincial budget also contains funding for more equipment changes, he added.
“As a ministry, we have a lot of work to do. But, so do our contractors. I will be meeting with them in person as soon as possible to determine how we can work together to improve this program and their performance,” said Del Duca, adding an action plan will be in place within 60 days to deal with the issue.
The Ontario Trucking Association welcomed the report and Del Duca’s commitment to addressing the issue.
“OTA has been working with MTO and its membership for two winter seasons to help build the case that some contractors do not appear to be fully living up to their contractual obligations,” the association said in a release. “OTA welcomes the Ministers Action plan and looks forward to providing the trucking industry’s input.”