JOC ARCHIVES

February 20, 2010

FEATURE | Roadbuilding & Surveying

Early tendering program paves the way for B.C. roadbuilders

It took many years of asking by the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association (BCRBHCA), but about five years ago B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure finally caved in and launched an early tendering program.

So far, it’s worked out well for the association.

“It’s so important. We can plan what we’re going to build and plan our construction season,” said president Jack Davidson.

“With tenders spread out over the year, we couldn’t plan.”

Prior to the change, tenders trickled out in March, April and May, dependent on the provincial budget, said Rodney Chapman, construction and maintenance director with the Ministry of Transportation.

Now, tenders for regular road work (excluding major capital projects) are released as early as November for work the following year.

About 70 per cent are out by the end of March.

The remainder are typically held up because of design delays, environmental approvals or because they’re two-year projects, Chapman said from Victoria.

Alberta also does early tendering for road work.

The advantages are many.

Contractors can put out solid, competitive bids because being able to see much of the year’s work early in the season allows them to plan.

In effect, they map their work year.

And being able to schedule work in advance makes for a more efficient and lower cost work force due to reduced overtime costs, Davidson said from Burnaby.

Companies can crush gravel and do preliminary work in the winter because they’ll already know where they’re working.

In the old days, experienced crew would pick up work as soon as they could, often elsewhere.

Now, they can be hired sooner, lessening the chance they’ll have headed for greener pastures.

There are also fewer layoffs if a company planned well because work gaps don’t exist, Davidson explained.

With the window for road work ending around mid-October in the north and about a month later in the south, work is usually finished on time, simply because of better planning, Chapman said.

“There’s much more value for the money for everybody,” he added.

Davidson said he realizes that there’s a lot of work for ministry staff to put complicated tenders together in a timely fashion.

With a few hundred ministry staff, who work on various components of a tender, they’ve adapted pretty well.

But even though the tenders are early, they still have to be thorough and include all the details.

At times, collecting information isn’t possible, as in the winter when snow covers a gravel pit, Chapman said.

Still, it’s not the mad scramble it was in years past, he added.

As for why early tendering wasn’t instituted sooner, given its all-round benefits, Chapman said some of the reticence had to do with budget planning. Considerable work was done to get implemented.

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