As winter begins to show its face in the region, Interior Roads is gearing up for its winter preparedness program.
Manager Daniel Hutchins told city council Tuesday the company is part of the provincial campaign, “Shift into Winter,” that provides bulletins and updates on driving through a website.
“The hope is to get drivers into the winter driving habits before we have a major storm. Nobody’s prepared for the first one,” Hutchins said.
By Oct. 26, the company will fully implement its winter shift, meaning 24-hour coverage for the Williams Lake area, spanning to Horsefly, Deep Creek, Buffalo Creek and west to the Sheep Creek Bridge. Interior Roads accesses three main aggregate stock piles, Hutchins said.
“Not much has changed since last season. Our road maintenance requests remain mostly the same. Our school bus routes are the same so we should see the same general approach that we had last year,” Hutchins added.
The company continues to use the provincial road information website, DriveBC, for updates.
City councillor Surinderpal Rathor asked Hutchins if the company is still looking for mechanics, and heard across the area, the company has the same amount of mechanics, however, has moved some, including one to its Bella Coola depot, where they didn’t have one before.
“We are still looking for additional mechanics and hired a new one today. Unfortunately it’s such with the industry right now that we have to go over our normal capacity just in case our mechanics need any time off,” Hutchins said, adding it’s difficult to compete with wages being offered in the oil fields or mining industry with the “economy as it is right now.”
In the past, Interior Roads has gone above its regular capacity so when one or two mechanics leave in a season, the company can keep up with demand.
“The trucks take quite a beating doing winter operations. Normally in the Williams Lake area we have around four full time mechanics, right now we have three, earlier this year we had five coming out of winter. But in the event we cannot keep up, we also have one of our sister companies that has four mechanics on standby seven days a week if we need them,” Hutchins said.
Coun. Sue Zacharias said it’s a common refrain, that people are having trouble keeping on staff because of competition from the mines.
At this time there are no agreements with Interior Roads and the city, although Interior Roads is responsible for any highway arteries that run through the city.
“We maintain those on behalf of the province, and if we travel along other roads to access those arteries, and they are slippery, our operators have instructions to sand those. In the past we had written agreements with the city, but over time they stopped being updated,” Hutchins said.
Coun. Ivan Bonnnell suggested maybe it was time to reopen those agreements.