The city of Ottawa’s battle against noise continues as the city focuses on more annoying backup beeps from work vehicles, such as snow plows and construction trucks.
The city could use the permit ordinance to force municipal permit holders to eliminate backup beep alarms from their vehicles and replace the devices with a softer alternative.
On Monday, mayor and aldermen received a staff update in their inbox about the expansion of less harsh backup warning signals after Coun. Shawn Menard filed an investigation in September.
The city has replaced beep alert devices with quieter “broadband” devices on parts of its fleet. count. Diane Deans got the ball rolling in 2017 when she asked staff to look into broadband alarms after residents complained about back-up beeps from snow trucks in parking lots.
The broadband device emits a focused whooshing sound to the area immediately around the vehicle, rather than bombarding the area with a repetitive deafening beep.
A pilot project with some snowblowers during the 2017-2018 season led the city to install broadband alarms across its entire snowblower fleet by 2020. Nearly 300 units have the broadband alarms and snow equipment rented by the city must have them as well.
From there, the city installed the broadband alarms on equipment used for nighttime work by parks, forestry and stormwater services where municipal yards are adjacent to neighborhoods.
The city sees an opportunity to further reduce backup beeps by requiring its snow contractors to have the broadband equipment when their agreements with city hall are signed or renewed.
Snowplow permitting is scheduled to be reviewed during the next council term after it was canceled in 2021 due to the pandemic.
The permit ordinance will be revised over several years from 2022, and the city sees it as an opportunity to create backup noise regulations for vehicles regulated by the municipal government. Tow trucks are another example of vehicles that require municipal permits.
Staff do not plan to use the separate noise ordinance to regulate vehicle backup warning sounds, as it would apply to vehicles that also travel outside of Ottawa, such as tour buses and transport trucks.
There is a larger discussion going on about reducing backup alarm beeps from vehicles operating at night in Ottawa.
The city has spent the past two years talking with the National Capital Heavy Construction Association (NCHCA) about the potential to ensure vehicles working on municipal infrastructure projects are equipped with the broadband backup warning devices instead of the annoying beeps.
While the city and NCHCA set up a committee in the fall of 2020 to resolve the details and challenges, work had to be suspended as the city and industry turned their attention to the COVID-19 pandemic. The city hopes to restart talks.
The NCHCA executive director could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
According to the city, the construction industry has raised “several important concerns”, mainly related to construction site safety.
There have also been problems getting the broadband alarm devices during the pandemic.
The city said supply chain delays have impacted the near-term availability of broadband backup devices, though the city itself has managed to keep a cache of the alarms and identified additional options that will be tested.
There is a renewed interest from town hall in silencing annoying noises, which are even more noticeable in many neighborhoods during a new way of working from home.
The city is also looking into regulating gas-powered landscaping, such as leaf blowers and trimmers. The idea cuts both ways; it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit noise.