Since the privatization of highway maintenance in BC, we’ve governed the level of service required from our contractors through our Maintenance Contract Agreements. However, in the 27 years since highway maintenance was privatized, there have been substantial changes both in the industry and in public expectations. We’ve recently renewed the maintenance contract for the East Kootenay service area and the language in this new contract will be the starting point for all of our maintenance contracts around the province as they come up for renewal over the next three years.
This new contract has improved language, which will foster a better level of service by requiring the contractor to be more responsive. For example, the new contract requires the roads to be brought back to bare pavement sooner after a weather event.
What else has changed?
- We’ve shortened the contract term from a 10-year to a 7-year term.
- We’ve changed some winter maintenance specifications, such as: a reduction in time to reach bare and black pavement for -9oC and warmer, and encouraging a proactive approach to winter weather events.
- We no longer require the contractor to be a successor employer of the bargaining unit employees. Removal of the successor-ship clauses in the next round of contracts improves the ability of maintenance contractors to manage resources effectively and, potentially, at a lower cost to taxpayers.
- We’ve increased the upset price (setting a maximum price) from the previous contract round to reflect changes in the level of winter maintenance over past 15 years. The upset price approach challenges contractors to provide the greatest amount of service for that price.
- We aren’t limiting the number of service area contracts any one contractor can hold.
- We’ve clarified ambiguous language in the Maintenance Contract Specifications and made an effort to reduce duplication.
- We’ve clarified the definition of an emergency through a unified “Major Event” specification.
- We have a requirement to control invasive plants.
- There are provisions in the contract for additional sweeping along highways used by cyclists.
We constantly monitor the work of our maintenance contractors to ensure they are in line with the terms of their contract and are meeting our high standards. Contractors’ work is also assessed by local ministry staff within the service area and by the annual assessments of auditors from outside the service area. We also check with local stakeholders including emergency responders, elected officials and school bus operators.
- Our maintenance contractors maintain approximately 47,800 kilometres of road, and 2,800 bridges across the province.
- There are over 2,000 contracted employees and hundreds of trucks and pieces of equipment working 24/7 to keep our highways open, safe and reliable.
Maintenance contractors provide a vital service in British Columbia by making sure that our roads, highways and bridges are safe for travel. We appreciate the work they do, often in difficult conditions. You can play an important part in keeping BC Highways safe too. Always check DriveBC before you travel and be sure to drive to road conditions. Do you have any questions about this or any other work the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure does? Let us know in the comments below. Safe travels all.