One of the Road Commission for Oakland County’s trucks gets loaded with salt before heading out on the road. The road commission recently has undergone a review of its winter maintenance procedures before the upcoming season.

One of the Road Commission for Oakland County’s trucks gets loaded with salt before heading out on the road. The road commission recently has undergone a review of its winter maintenance procedures before the upcoming season.

Photo provided by Craig Bryson


Road Commission for Oakland County prepares for winter season

By: Mike Koury | Metro | Published November 11, 2021

 A Road Commission loader hits the salt dome to procure salt to spread on the roadways in Southfield.

A Road Commission loader hits the salt dome to procure salt to spread on the roadways in Southfield.

Photo provided by Craig Bryson

OAKLAND COUNTY — The Road Commission for Oakland County is preparing for the winter season, and it’s beginning by taking on its annual review of its winter maintenance procedures.

The Road Commission recently conducted one of its review sessions with its snowplow drivers and other staff Oct. 29 in Southfield. The team went over safety practices in what Road Commission officials referred to as a review for the experienced drivers and something new for the newer drivers.

Road Commission Public Information Officer Craig Bryson said some of the things trainers go over with the staff include discussions of snowplow crashes around the country so the drivers know what could happen and how important it is to follow procedures.

“Safety is the biggest thing we spend the most time on, but we also talk a lot about the winter vehicle maintenance activities,” he said. “The drivers are responsible for ... the pre-trip checklist to make sure everything is in good functioning order when they go out and when they come back in at the end of their shift and make sure everything is good.”

Drivers are responsible for changing the blades on the snowplows, searching for leaks in the hydraulic hoses, cleaning out the salt spreaders and double-checking that the lights work.

Bryson said making sure the beds of the dump trucks are lowered also is important so an incident doesn’t arise as a result of a lifted bed.

“There have certainly been cases in our agency and other agencies where (drivers are) tired, they’re at the end of a 16-hour shift and they forget to put the dump bed down and pull out of the salt dome or garage and smash through the garage door, or worse,” Bryson said. “There have been cases where the drivers have hit overpasses on the freeway if they forget to put the bed down. So that’s a really important safety factor.”

On his end, Darryl Heid, the director of highway maintenance, reviews the staffing levels with the workers, because this is the time of the season when the staff gets moved around for the winter.

Heid explained that the winter transfer of employees will take place Nov. 15. They will stay in their districts if there are no snow events and continue with nonwinter work, but once a winter weather event commences, they will report to the Southfield or Troy district for work.

“We’ve got more critical runs, and so I explain how we’re moving employees around, why we need to do that so that way everybody can have an idea what the staffing will be in an area, and then they’ll ask about certain coverages; we have winter maintenance guidelines that for any intensity in the daytime of the storm, we’ll call a certain coverage out,” he said. “We’re not gonna have the same coverage at midnight than we would at rush hour.”

Recently, the Road Commission hired 17 new full-time drivers for the upcoming winter season, though the commission is looking to hire 10 more full-time and 20 part-time drivers to help out. Heid estimated they’re currently at 85%-90% staff level for a full workforce.

Heid said he believes they do have the staffing levels now to conduct their jobs efficiently this winter in the county.

“The numbers are up from years past after the recession,” he said. “I think our numbers were down below that. It’s one thing the Road Commission drivers really pride themselves on: winter maintenance. They work the long shifts and they always make sure everything’s covered. I’ve got to give the success to them. They’re the ones out there driving for us.”

Bryson said finding drivers has been challenging with the COVID-19 labor shortages, as well as the significant number of truck driver jobs from other entities, such as Amazon, that have been increasing their numbers.

“It’s a challenging market for truck drivers and road maintenance laborers,” he said.

People interested in applying with the Road Commission can visit www.rcocweb.org and select the career tab. Bryson noted applicants need to have a commercial driver’s license with an air brake designation.