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New in Town: What it's like behind the wheel of a Bradford snow plow

‘I get gestures from people on where I can go and how to do it. What they don’t understand is I’m a taxpayer, too. I go home and have to shovel my own driveway,’ says Bradford West Gwillimbury snow plow driver

It is a scenario many of us know all too well.

We just finish shovelling or snow blowing when a plow drives by, leaving a wall of fresh snow at the end of the driveway we just cleared.

The annoyance. The rage. The despair.

It’s enough to make someone throw their shovel at the snow plow driver.

And, according to Brian Lloyd, lead hand for the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury’s transportation department, that has happened many times.

“They think the guy driving the snow plow is the meanest guy because he keeps filling my driveway. It’s not as easy as you think it is,” he said, adding people have thrown shovels and even snowballs at his vehicle many times in the 12 years he has driven a snow plow in BWG.

“I get gestures from people on where I can go and how to do it. What they don’t understand is I’m a taxpayer, too. I go home and have to shovel my own driveway.”

Kevin Vande Beek, the town’s roads supervisor, recently invited me to take a snow plow ride with Lloyd to see what it is like clearing roads on a snowy day in BWG.

I’m in a pickup truck with Vande Beek, driving to the roads operations headquarters between the fire and police stations on Melbourne Drive.

As we pull into the parking lot, we pass a large truck pulling away after dumping a load of salt for the crews to use.

“That makes me happy,” Vande Beek said.

The roads department has 13 snow plows, one sidewalk supply truck, seven sidewalk machines, one pickup truck with a blade and salter, and a backhoe, loader, and skid-steer, he said.

It is a cold, snowy day with blue skies, and many of the vehicles — and some of that salt — will be put to use by the department’s 21 winter employees to clear the roads.

After a snowfall, the town’s plow drivers clear the main roads first, followed by the collectors that feed into the main roads, and then the local roads.

Vande Beek said the main thing he wants people to know about snow plows is to give them space and “just be patient.”

To get into Lloyd’s snow plow, I have to climb over the edge of the wing on the side of the vehicle and hold onto two handles to pull myself into the cab.

Inside, the snow plow feels like any other large truck, except there’s nearly a dozen light switches, a little monitor that displays how much salt is being used and at what width of spread, and I count nine side mirrors.

There is even a button to activate a laser that shines out ahead of the plow that, Lloyd said, comes in handy for drivers wondering how close they are to mailboxes coming up in the distance.

What is missing from all the snow plows, Lloyd said, are dash cameras.

That is something he said he would like to have installed so people can see the types of interactions plow operators have with residents on a daily basis, including other drivers passing plows from behind on the left and right sides.

It is around 8:30 a.m. by the time Lloyd and I start on our ride. He has already been at work for 5 ½ hours.

In fact, when I first arrived at the roads operations headquarters, he was sitting in a break room eating his breakfast — a bowl of Shreddies out of a Tupperware container and a banana.

I am given a bright orange, reflective vest to put on over my winter coat, and we set out on our ride.

We drive west through subdivisions from Melbourne Drive, as far as 10 Sideroad, before we wind our way back east.

“Come on, girl. Let’s go. Giddyup,” Lloyd said to his plow.

It does not take long for us to pass a number of people who are shovelling or snow blowing their driveways.

Most of them look exhausted, and most of them look utterly heartbroken, their faces falling, when we drive by and shove more snow into their driveways.

Except for one man whose face we cannot see because he is wearing a welder’s helmet to snow blow his driveway.

As a plow passenger, I have to admit, it is tough not to chuckle at our views. (Please don’t throw your shovels at me.)

But I know what it is like to be those people — out there trying to get the driveway cleared before heading to work, huffing and puffing, and (often in my case) yelling a few choice words at the snow blower.

For Lloyd, he is sympathetic, but he is just doing his job.

“People get so frustrated. It’s not like I’m picking on one particular person,” he said.

“(People wonder), ‘Why does it have to drop the snow in my driveway all the time?’ There’s no way to avoid it. You work away on (the roads) the best you can. It’s like going around in a circle.”

The most a snow plow driver can be out on the roads in a single day is 13 hours, he said.

In that time, they circle back on roads and inevitably plow piles of snow some residents have shovelled onto the road, he said.

While 80 per cent of people will move their cars for snow plows, Lloyd added, some people will leave their vehicles parked on the road, forcing the plows to drive around them, in the hopes of avoiding snow getting pushed into their driveways.

What they do not realize is, he said, the plows will come back around later to clear that snow.

“To win the battle, you want to get the snow away from the plow … on top of the boulevard,” he said. “My objective is not to fill someone’s driveway.”

Lloyd considers himself a professional driver, and he has competed — and won — at Simcoe County’s annual rodeo for snow plow drivers, who compete in “a game of inches” by slowly working their way through obstacle courses.

He said BWG’s roads crews are “bar none one of the best of the best. It’s good staff, good planning, good equipment, and organized.”

The plows, he added, have a “little tiny plow” behind the big one — a new design in the last five years — that lets them get nearly down to the bare asphalt.

The wings can also move in and out, which is helpful for better clearing corners, he said.

Lloyd said he still remembers what it was like on his very first snow plow ride.

“It was quite stressful,” he said. “You just have to be conscious of what you’re doing, but aware of all the cars around you. It’s quite challenging. The more you do it, the better you get at it.”

If you have a question or concern about the Town of BWG’s snow removal, call 905-778-2055 ext. 2222.

New in Town is a behind-the-scenes look at businesses, clubs, and organizations in Bradford West Gwillimbury from the perspective of a person getting to know the community. Want to be featured? Email [email protected].

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Jenni Dunning

About the Author: Jenni Dunning

Jenni Dunning is a community editor and reporter who covers news in the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury.
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