It’s 4:00 a.m. on November 9 in Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan.
My truck is running and I’m brushing my teeth faster than usual. The phone rings and it’s one of our equipment operators. I answer, “Highways, Cassandra Boen speaking” and can hear he’s in a running vehicle. “Are you headed in?” I ask. “Already out plowing and whoooaaa is there lots of snow,” he says. A wave of pride comes over me and I think, I’d better hurry up!
We have a quick conversation and decide who will make sure the last two operators get to work safely, and then we hang up. I can hear the plows outside – their steel against the pavement.
I wake my daughter to let her know I’m going in early and wish her good luck on her big test. “Be safe. I’ll see if auntie can drive you and your brother to school,” I mention. Without waking him, I kiss my little guy. I kiss my boyfriend, who is about to leave for his week of working away, and let him know his route should be OK by time he leaves. I tell him, “Don’t be a hero; wait for the plows!”
It’s a typical “big snow morning” at my house.
I’m at the Highways shop now. I deal with the 24/7 calls, paper work, approve time cards, make decisions no one wants to make and so on. My job looks a lot different as a supervisor now. I still get to do some equipment operating though, and that’s where I feel like I make the biggest difference. My new employee and I break trail to the airport to get it as clear and accessible as possible for air emergency air traffic. It feels good to know my work is important.
I also have four very dedicated employees who have been with this department for anywhere between 15 and 30 years. They’re family men who are out on our roads as soon as possible when required. They are the heart of this operation.
That’s who called me at 4:00 a.m., because that’s our policy. Let someone know you went in early – because that’s how we keep safe.
By 4:00 a.m., our two tandem plows had opened the bypass, the Co-op, northeast intersections, north to the gravel, west to the truck route and south to EG’s shop. After that, they headed south and west on their normal routes. Behind them, our men in the two graders began their long, slow, treacherous routes north and southeast.
Those men work straight through, only stopping for fuel. They eat a sandwich on the go. Once one route is done, they start on the next. One truck loses heat partway through the day. Another loses the ability to turn the plow, because that’s what heavy equipment can do. No machine runs perfectly all the time. When a breakdown happens, we have no choice but to deal with it immediately.
The staff work for 12 to 15 hours today, and they’ll be back out early tomorrow.
These operators deserve a lot of credit. These folks have been out salting and plowing when it makes sense, for the last few weeks. There are few days off but no one complains, because our safety is at stake. They complete their tasks properly and safely, for themselves and the people in our area.
They’re out there for you.
When you see one of our crew members, say thanks. They deserve it.
We have a Highway Customer Service Centre who can answer all your questions or concerns. They are a fantastic resource. You can reach them by calling 1-844-SK-HIWAY or visiting www.saskatchewan.ca/skhiway.
Be sure to check www.saskatchewan.ca/highwayhotline before you hit the road.
Safe travels to everyone this winter season.