After Winter Storm Euclid dumped snow on Royal Oak and the surrounding area Tuesday and Wednesday, residents may be wondering: how is this going to impact the way I drive?
This winter season, the Road Commission for Oakland County has hired 30 part-time, temporary snowplow/salt-truck drivers as part of some new approaches to winter road maintenance.
“For the first time ever, we have hired temporary, part-time employees to augment our full-time drivers,” said RCOC Chairman Eric Wilson in a statement. “Our full-time staff numbers have dropped so much in recent years that we simply didn’t have enough staff to provide the level of service the public deserves. This is a cost-effective way to maintain that level of service.”
Wilson noted the agency has also brought back four retired plow drivers on a part-time basis. RCOC has reduced its staff by more than 28 percent overall, and nearly 35 percent within the Highway Maintenance Dept., over the last five years as a result of continued reductions in state-collected road funding.
In addition, the agency also purchased new equipment that should improve winter road maintenance efficiency.
Known as multi-functional spreaders, the new devices slide into the back of traditional dump trucks used for salting and plowing. They provide the capability to spread salt over three road lanes at one time while also more efficiently mixing liquid brine (salt water) with rock salt that improves the efficiency of the salting operation and reduces the amount of salt needed. They can also spray liquid brine alone.
The RCOC was able to purchase five bulk spreader units with some of the money left over as a result of the mild winter last year.
While the addition of the temporary, part-time workers and retirees should help to alleviate the strain caused by staff reductions, it does not address RCOC’s other major challenge this winter: Its aging equipment.
“Many of our trucks have reached or exceeded the point where they should be replaced. That means many are going to break down more often this winter than in the past,” said RCOC Vice-Chairman Greg Jamian. “And when they break down, it will frequently take longer to fix because the problems will be more severe.”
Jamian noted RCOC mechanics have inspected all RCOC trucks in an effort to prevent breakdowns, and will continue to do their best to keep the trucks on the road, thus buying time until there is an increase in road funding and the agency can buy new trucks.