Who Will Drive the Plows? Snow Removal Driver Shortage Seen Across U.S.

From Missouri to Michigan, city governments are searching for ways to remove snow this season during the workforce shortage.

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Departments of transportation across the country are reporting snow removal concerns this season as the workforce shortage impacts the industry. 

U.S. businesses are short 7 million workers due to the pandemic, retirements and lack of childcare. While it's common knowledge that retailers, restaurants and other industries are in short supply of employees, it may not be as well known that drivers are in high demand in the snow removal business. 

The Ohio Department of Transportation recently reported  that it is struggling to find workers to remove snow this season. The department is seeking 500 seasonal plow drivers, according to a WHIOTV report. 

“We are struggling to find qualified workers to fill these positions this year,” says Jack Marchbanks, director of the ODOT. “We’re doing everything we can to recruit the help we need.”

Marchbanks says at a recent job fair, there were about five applicants for snow removal jobs, compared to the usual 50-60. 

The state is warning residents that snow removal could take much longer than usualTypically, ODOT’s goal is to have primary roads cleared within two hours of a snow event, and secondary roads within four hours. Having fewer seasonal drivers could make it more difficult to hit those goals, ODOT said in a news release.

In Milwaukee, Wis., the city's department of public works is hoping that a $2.59 pay increase will help attract workers to the job. According to a story by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, there is a proposal to up snow plow driver pay from $19.54 to $22.13. The challenge is expected to grow early next year, when the federal department of transportation increases its minimum requirements for a commercial driver's license, one city official voiced in a memo. 

In Michigan, local road commissions are having the same problem, according to FOX17. 

"The issue that we are personally seeing is a lot of retirement," Muskegon County Road Commission maintenance superintendent Andrew Nichols says in the news report. The microchip and machine part shortage also has the commission worried about snow plow maintenance and break downs. 

In St. Louis, Mo., the county is looking for snow plow drivers. The department of transportation and public works is short 30 drivers for snow removal and is seeking bids from contractors to remove snow from its 3,166 miles of road, according to a story by Call Newspapers

“With 199 plow drivers and 35,000 tons of rock salt, our department is usually a formidable snow-fighting force,” says Stephanie Leon Streeter, acting director for the department. “However, with so many open positions our snow removal response will be challenging this year. We need help to keep our road system safe for drivers.”

For the first time ever, the city of Duluth, Minn., is publicly recruiting drivers for snow removal due to the worker shortage, according to a story by WDIO

Street Maintenance Operations Coordinator Geoff Vukelich in the story says, "We need to get these spots filled we need to get people trained so that we can provide the good plowing services that we have done for the city in the past."

To become a snow plow driver, a worker needs the correct licensing for the equipment and knowledge of how to drive large equipment safely, as well as a resilient attention span.