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MoDOT shortage of snow plow drivers continues for fourth straight year

A snow plow drives down a busy street. The street has a few people walking on the left side of the image and there are multiple yellow and purple banners throughout the street.
James Lewis
MoDot is reporting a shortage of snow plow drivers for the fourth year in a row.

JEFFERSON CITY − The Missouri Department of Transportation isn't new to experiencing staff shortages for snow plow operators.

For the fourth year in a row, MoDOT is reporting a shortage of snow plow drivers, which could impact how fast roads get cleared after snowfall this winter.

The department first started having major problems with keep drivers in plows in the fall of 2020, with a shortage of 400 drivers due to COVID-19 cases and quarantines, according to KOMU 8 previous reporting.

In 2021, job turnover got more severe during a national truck driver shortage, along with retirements, employee exits and competitive pay in other states. MoDOT told KOMU 8 that a more competitive pay was needed to retain employees while also drawing more in. The department said they were down 600 plow drivers in December 2021.

While last winter's snowy season in mid-Missouri didn't require much plowing, MoDOT's plow driver shortage continued to get worse. MoDOT said it was down 900 employees that would be needed to respond to a widespread event that lasts more than a 24-hour period.

Wage increases in 2022 made the minimum pay over $22 an hour with incentives for working overnight. MoDOT said this has helped hire new plow drivers, but numbers are still down.

Mike Belt, MoDOT maintenance superintendent, has worked with the department for 34 years. He said the staffing shortages have really been around since 2010, and while COVID-19 definitely didn't help the department boost numbers, it didn't lose more than expected.

The biggest thing MoDOT can do when it's always understaffed, according to Belt, is to make sure the largest and busiest highways stay clear in between MoDOT locations.

"If we've got one area that's a little bit understaffed, we give some of their routes maybe to a neighboring building that is better equipped staffing wise, to maintain that," Belt said. "And we make those adjustments storm by storm."

Making sure the public doesn't notice the lack of plow drivers is key.

"We don't want them to see inconsistencies in our routes," Belt said. "We understand the traveling public motorists, they shouldn't know where one maintenance building starts and another begins."

While MoDOT hired 100 drivers this summer, it's still hundreds short from being short staffed, according to Belt. MoDOT job listings can be found on its website.

To report an error or typo, email news@komu.com.

KOMU 8 is a full-powered NBC affiliate operating as an independent commercial property. As such, KOMU 8 is the only major network affiliate in the United States that acts as a university-owned commercial television station utilizing its newsroom as a working lab for students.
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