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State to Track Snow Plow Contractors

Mon November 03, 2003 - National Edition

BOSTON (AP) Private snowplow operators will have more to worry about this year than slippery roads — the state will be looking over their shoulders to make sure they’re doing their job.

State highway officials are spending $90,000 on 1,000 global positioning system units that will be assigned to snow plow contractors in eastern Massachusetts. Officials want to make sure the contractors are not slacking off.

“If they’re not moving, they’re not plowing,” Jon Carlisle, spokesman for the state Executive Office of Transportation and Construction, told The Enterprise of Brockton. “It will let us know the number of passes they’ve made on the roadway. If you look at the computer screen, you can see them going up and down the highway.”

The move is designed to weed out underperforming contractors and save money.

“We will track the amount of hours worked and they will be paid accordingly,” Carlisle said. “No more payment for an hour stop at the doughnut shop.”

Some contractors don’t like the idea.

“It’s Big Brother looking over your shoulder to see how things are going,” said Henry Zion, a snow plow operator and owner of Zion Enterprises in Middleboro. “Most guys know what they’re doing. I don’t like it.”

The drivers will be monitored from the Massachusetts Highway Department’s operation center in South Boston, but senior MassHighway staff will also be able to bring up the system on their computers.

“Everyone from the commissioner to the secretary will be keeping an eye on the system,” Carlisle said. “There will be a lot of eyes on our contractors.”

The unit contains a cell phone as well as a GPS, but drivers will only be able to call their supervisors or to call 911.

The state spent $65 million last winter on snow and ice removal, using 2,200