Several states are facing a shortage of salt-truck and snowplow drivers, potentially bringing day-to-day difficulties 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 still recruiting snowplow drivers this season, 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 fire 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."
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Geib said he hasn't seen a snowplow driver shortage like this during his 30 years at MDOT. He added that the shortage is likely due to a competitive job market – the private sector is offering 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 officer Matt Bruning told AccuWeather. "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.
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CDOT currently has about 190 permanent positions available for entry-level maintenance with roughly 100 other temporary positions open, he said.
Cities are also feeling the pinch of the snowplow driver shortage. In Milwaukee, the city's Department of Public Works has reported that it is finding it "extremely challenging" to find workers to drive the snowplows amid a nationwide labor shortage and high competition for workers with commercial driver's licenses.
Milwaukee officials are hoping a $2.59 bump in minimum hourly pay will help head off what could be a dire staffing shortage that would likely require more time to clear snow from the roads.
Contributing: Emma Stein, Detroit Free Press; Alison Dirr, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Snowplow driver shortage could spell winter trouble for US motorists
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