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News about the roadbuilding & heavy construction industry

Issued March 10, 2017


Alberta Drivers Risk Disaster Passing Snowplows

Edmonton (March 10, 2017) – Alberta snowplow operators are seeing an alarming number of drivers risking death or serious injury by unsafely passing or following too closely behind winter maintenance equipment on the province’s highways.

“Drivers need to recognize the potentially devastating consequences of an impulse decision to pass or tailgate a snowplow. They put their own lives at risk and the safety of other drivers and snowplow operators,” said Jim Rivait, CEO of the Alberta Roadbuilders & Heavy Construction Association. The ARHCA’s 1,000 members include contractors responsible for maintenance of Alberta’s highways.

In addition to this week’s death of a driver who crashed head-on with another vehicle while passing a plow near Bonnyville, operators report other cases that could have ended tragically. Examples include:

  • A driver caused a head-on crash near Foremost by passing a highway plow on Wednesday. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries.
  • In Central Alberta on Monday, two snowplows were rear-ended and one side-swiped, all within a three-hour span.
  • A pickup truck also crashed into the back of a plow on Highway 16 near Entwistle on Saturday. The pickup was totaled and the snow plow driver suffered minor injuries.
  • Earlier this winter, a plow operator was forced off the road while acting to prevent a head-on crash when a driver passed the plow going uphill and approaching a blind corner.

“Operating a snowplow under extreme weather conditions is very challenging even without the hazard from impatient drivers who gamble that nobody is coming the other way when they pull out to pass,” said Rivait.

Plows must travel slower than regular highway traffic to properly blade snow or apply sand and salt – typically in the 50-70 km/h range – so drivers should slow down when they see a snowplow ahead to avoid rear-end collisions.  Contractors report 23 collisions with plows in 2017. Operators will pull over to allow vehicles to pass every 5 to 8 km but must first reach a safe location.

There’s still a lot of winter weather ahead, so the ARHCA reminds drivers to slow down and give the 620 provincial highway plows room to work so everyone gets to their destination safely.


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Busy Winter for Snow Plows on Alberta Highways

News about the roadbuilding & heavy construction industry

Issued April 28, 2017

Edmonton (April 28, 2017) – It was a busy winter for Alberta’s snow plow operators as they logged 186,558 hours – the equivalent of more than 21 years – clearing and sanding the province’s highways. That’s up 22% over the previous winter when spring came unusually early.

“More than 600 snow plows were out this winter under extreme winter weather conditions so Albertans could travel safely on provincial highways,” said Jim Rivait, CEO of the Alberta Roadbuilders & Heavy Construction Association. The ARHCA’s 1,000 members include companies responsible for winter maintenance of Alberta’s highways under contract with the provincial government.

“Snow plow drivers see the worst of Alberta’s winters from the cabs of their trucks – from blizzards to freezing rain – and are often the first ones on the road after a storm. Their dedication helps Albertans reach their destinations safely and ensures that businesses can continue to ship their products to market,” said Rivait.

While most motorists give snowplows the room they need to operate safely, each year there are always some incidents. A total of 36 collisions or near misses were recorded since the start of 2017. That compares to 23 incidents in all of 2016 and 25 in 2015. Rear-end collisions were the most common type of incident.

“Our Association wants to remind people to be careful when they encounter plows in the winter or construction crews who are already starting work on this summer’s projects. Our members are trying to ensure the roads are safe year-round so Albertans can travel safely and conveniently. Please recognize that your safety and workers’ lives are at stake.”

Alberta Transportation and the Alberta Roadbuilders & Heavy Construction Association co-sponsor the Safer Winter Highways campaign to inform the public about winter road maintenance in Alberta, and the role of Alberta motorists and snowplow operators in the safer winter driving equation. This winter the campaign hosted 19 Show off the Plows events in communities and schools. The events provide the chance to learn more about the state-of-the-art equipment used to maintain Alberta’s highways and talk to experienced operators.