Snow removal

Spring gives snowplows a new look

Come April, maintenance vehicles will get dressed for summer

Spring may be coming, but these trucks won't be out of work.
Spring may be coming, but these trucks won’t be out of work.   Trent Erickson

It looks like winter’s coming to an early end. When the snow goes away and the plows have nothing to push what happens to them?

Although it would be cute to picture dozens of plows going into a reverse hibernation, this isn’t the reality. Halifax’s snow removal machines are put to use yearlong.

All of Halifax’s plows are trucks that can be repurposed for warm weather jobs. In April, the city will decide if it need to keep the snow removal machines around any longer for the season. If it decide that they’re unnecessary, the process of equipping the machines for their warm weather jobs will begin.

When this happens all the trucks will be driven to Halifax’s transportation and public works depot in Burnside where the plows and snowblowers are removed from the front of the trucks, repaired and stored for another season.

All of the plows and snowblowers are easily removable.

“They can take the plows off in a couple hours,” said Trevor Harvie, Halifax’s acting superintendent of winter operations.

Halifax's maintenance vehicles have removable parts that change with the seasons.
Halifax’s maintenance vehicles have removable parts that change with the seasons.   Trent Erickson

Harvie explained that in the warm months the street clearing equipment performs jobs like hauling loads of gravel or mulch. Some of the plows are outfitted with a large broom and sweep dust to the side of streets in the same way they push snow to the side of streets.

Most of the plow drivers transition to summer jobs along with their vehicles. Other drivers are given different city jobs such as sidewalk maintenance and landscaping. Many plow drivers are cross-trained.

Mike Williams has been driving trucks for the HRM for the past 24 years. He drives the same type of vehicle, a five-ton truck, year-round.

“When it warms up my job is to sweep the streets,” said Williams as he prepared to spread road salt in his truck.

Mike Williams always drives the same vehicle, a five-ton truck.
Mike Williams always drives the same vehicle, a five-ton truck.   Trent Erickson

The Halifax Regional Municipality owns 44 pieces of street-clearing equipment which include snowblowers and the trucks that follow them, and five-ton and three-ton trucks that have plows attached.

The municipality also owns 10 Bobcats that are used to plow sidewalks.

The HRM provides $26 million in initial funding for winter street maintenance. More money can be requested if needed.

This fleet is supplemented by hourly contractors, who add between 120 and 150 pieces of street-clearing equipment, depending on the conditions.

Despite the recent fair weather, Harvie says his team remains prepared to deal with an unexpected storm. Even after the operation begins to shut down in April some plows and trucks will be kept ready to spread salt if there is a particularly cold morning.

“As much as it’s been nice and mild you can’t let your guard down this early in the game,” said Harvie.