USA TODAY International Edition

States are adrift because of a lack of snowplow drivers

- Doyle Rice Contributi­ng: Emma Stein, Detroit Free Press; Alison Dirr, Milwaukee Journal- Sentinel.

Several states are facing a shortage of salt- truck and snowplow drivers, potentiall­y bringing day- to- day difficulties for motorists and slowing emergency services as winter weather begins to arrive across much of the U. S.

Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvan­ia, Rhode Island and Wyoming – all of which typically have snow on the roadways during the winter months – are recruiting snowplow drivers, according to AccuWeathe­r.

Six of those states – Colorado, Ohio, Oregon, Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvan­ia – are each looking to hire more than 100 people.

“It’s not just for the traveling public, but it’s also for emergency services, the ambulances and police and fire and all that,” said Mark Geib, administra­tor of the Transporta­tion Systems Management Operations division at the Michigan Department of Transporta­tion. “We need to keep the roads clear so people can get around, especially in emergency situations.”

Geib said he hasn’t seen a snowplow driver shortage like this during his 30 years at MDOT. He added that the shortage likely is due to a competitiv­e job market – the private sector is offering bonuses and higher wages, and it can be hard for MDOT to compete because it has pre- set salaries.

In Ohio, the state’s Department of Transporta­tion has more than 190 open positions. “In some parts of the state, our applicatio­ns are down about 50% from where they would expect to be,” ODOT public informatio­n officer Matt Bruning. “The good thing is, we have drivers. We have people who will get the roads clear in Ohio. How many seasonal ( workers) we get will determine how quickly we get those roads cleared.”

The department has a goal to get the primary roads clear within two hours of the end of a snow event and the secondary routes within four hours. While the department hits that goal 95% of the time, Bruning said, this year might prove more challengin­g.

In Colorado, the state’s Department of Transporta­tion is seeing a shortage of about 18% to 19% of its snowplow operators, John Lorme, director of maintenanc­e and operations for the CDOT, told AccuWeathe­r.

CDOT yhas about 190 permanent positions available for entry- level maintenanc­e with roughly 100 other temporary positions open, he said.

Cities also are feeling the pinch of the snowplow driver shortage. In Milwaukee, the city’s Department of Public Works has reported that it is finding it “extremely challengin­g” to find workers to drive the snowplows amid a labor shortage and competitio­n for workers with commercial driver’s licenses.

Milwaukee officials are hoping a $ 2.59 bump in minimum hourly pay will help head off what could be a dire staffing shortage that would likely require more time to clear snow from the roads.

 ?? GREG LEHMAN/ AP ?? A Walla Walla County snowplow clears a rural road of snow in Walla Walla, Wash., in February.
GREG LEHMAN/ AP A Walla Walla County snowplow clears a rural road of snow in Walla Walla, Wash., in February.

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