Some Ontario residents who wonder just where in the world their municipality’s snowplows are can now track their whereabouts online.
Whereismysnowplow.com allows people to find out where snowplows are in real time.
The service was developed by Webtech Wireless, of Burnaby, B.C., which provides a GPS fleet-tracking service to municipalities.
So far, only the city of Vaughan and town of Lakeshore, both in Ontario, subscribe to the service. The town of Truckee, Calif., also subscribes.
The town of Oakville employs its own snowplow-tracking program online.
“Residents can look for themselves when a plow was there and where they’re at right now,” Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain said.
Lakeshore, east of Windsor, just soft-launched its site this month. Five centimetres of snow are expected in Lakeshore and Windsor today.
“We’re working on getting some of the kinks out of it and with the snow today we’re working on the program to make sure it’s working properly,” Bain said.
Phones ring 'all day long'
Bain said during snowstorms, people call wondering where the plow is and alleging that a plow has never been by their residence.
“It depends on the severity of the storms, but the phones are practically ringing all day long, one call after the other. That was really why we felt this would help, to some degree, alleviate that problem,” Bain said. “This will certainly free up our office staff. On real nasty days, we have two or three staff tied up answering phones.
“People will call in and say ‘there hasn’t been a snowplow down my road all day.’ Now we can say ‘yes there was. A plow went by at 6 a.m.’”
Chad Drummond is lead hand for the Lakeshore public works department and drives a plow.
He says complaints “are constant.”
“We get there when we get there. We have priority roads we have to take care of first,” he said.
Drummond said routes run from 35 to 85 kilometres in length and drivers spend 12 hours a day pushing snow.
“It will give the public some insight on the depth and volume of snowplow routes,” Drummond said of the new tracking site.
The city of Vaughan developed its original GPS program about 10 years ago. It was re-launched through whereismysnowplow.com earlier this year with a fresh look and improved graphics.
City spokeswoman Anne Winstanley said the online tool “is one of many options available to Vaughan residents to learn about the city’s winter maintenance programs.”
Winstanley said the city also uses Twitter and Facebook to relay snowplow information to residents.
She said the city had a 35-per-cent monthly increase in visits to the winter maintenance pages of the city’s website for the winter of 2013-14.
The public whereismysnowplow.com website is a pared-down version of the fully functional site municipalities have private access to. The public site shows only limited information, such as snowplow type, time and location, as determined by the municipality that subscribes to the system.
“If plows are running into problems with heavy snow, we can see that and we can send plows into certain areas,” Bain said.
Calls and emails to Webtech Wireless were not returned.