As we celebrate the final summer long weekend, city hall is in a dilemma about winter road safety.

Adding a new device to the city's salter trucks will make them more efficient, but the outside workers’ union is sounding the alarm.

The device under question is a snow plow wing, a blade that protrudes out the side of a truck by six to eight feet.

The city's fleet contains a mix of snow plowing trucks and salter trucks. Plows are operated by a team of two - a driver is assisted by a wingman in the passenger seat who monitors the protruding wing.

The city is now considering adding a wing to salter trucks as well, but have them operated by a single driver.

“It’s scary, very scary for the people of London because now you have an operator running down the road with an unmanned wing,” says union vice-president Alistair Bruff.

But the head of winter road clearing for the city says only the widest roads would see the wing used. That’s about a third of the city's 3,500 lane kilometers of road.

“We don't want to add another person to the truck because we feel on the types of roads that we're doing, it’s comparable to what other municipalities are doing,” says John Parsons.

The city says converting sander/salter trucks into combination vehicles provides better results and is already being done in neighbouring municipalities, including Strathroy and Ingersoll.

Sanding features are increasingly automated which would free up the operator for the additional responsibility of the wing.

If the blade is used special steps have to be taken for the driver to see it.

Some municipalities rely on mirrors and others mount special laser pointers that project in front of the vehicle.

“The problem here is that there is no one watching the actual curb lane,” Bruff says.

Parsons says training would be essential.

The city says it is working with other communities to learn best practices and how they make sure it’s safe for operators and the public.

“We are only going to do it if everybody is trained well and comfortable doing it. We won't put people in an uncomfortable situation,” Parsons says.

The union and management are negotiating, but the road maintenance department would like to at least see a pilot project started this winter. That means drivers would have to start training soon.