Hidden cameras show lack of training, near-collisions for sidewalk plow drivers

News source from CTV News

A Montreal journalist who managed to talk his way into a job driving a sidewalk snowplow after just five minutes of training is making waves in city hall and the transport ministry.

Jean Baltazard said he wanted to see how difficult getting the job was, so he called a company and was hired and put behind the wheel almost immediately. He used a hidden camera to capture the little training he was given.

“The only training I got was this five minute training in the parking lot,” he said. “They told me I can do some doughnuts with the machine and that’s it. I was left alone for like six or seven hours with only a map of the streets.”

Baltazard said he worked 32 hours in two days and found the job wasn’t easy, especially given the lack of training.

“It’s real difficult because you have people on the sidewalks, cars around you,” he said. “It was really dangerous, event at one point (my plow) wasn’t working well. It didn’t have brakes under the Caterpillar so I had to pull those handles to brake. It was really difficult to avoid cars and people.”

After snow falls, Montreal deploys 2,200 machines to plow 10,000 kilometres of road. Half of the machines sent out are city workers while the other half are private contractors.

To drive a large truck, drivers need a class three license and can’t work beyond a certain number of hours, but for the sidewalk plows a regular driver’s license is fine and there is no limit on the number of hours a driver can work.

“If you are too tired, the Societe D’Assurance Automobile du Quebec says to stop working,” said SAAQ spokesperson Marie-Josee Michaud. “It’s really dangerous for you and everyone around you.”

Baltazard said he found there’s pressure on drivers working for private companies to keep working 18 hour – or longer – shifts, even if they’re tired.

While the number of collisions involving snow-clearing machinery had gone down for several years after 2012, data over the past three years shows them rising in the Montreal area. There were 49 collisions during the winter of 2015-16, 76 the next year – including three fatalities – and 117 accidents last year.

Mayor Valerie Plante said she’s looking into the issue.

“We don’t want to put anyone’s security in danger,” she said. “So we need to work on that issue. We knew, but not to what extent now it’s getting bigger and bigger.”

The Quebec transport ministry also weighed in, saying the situation is worrisome and new rules will be examined for all operators of snow removal vehicles.

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