MoDOT concerned about shortage of snow plow drivers
JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri Department of Transportation has a shortage of more than 400 plow truck drivers and heavy equipment operators.
The shortage is not new to MoDOT, but the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be a challenge for the upcoming winter season.
MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna said they have been following strict social distancing guidelines to keep everyone safe.
"We have very strict enforcement of social distancing in place and the most significant challenge ahead of us is really winter maintenance both on a staffing front and an operational front," McKenna said.
McKenna said that as of Wednesday, they had four new COVID-19 cases. That brings the department to a total of 68 cases since the pandemic started.
When an employee tests positive for the virus, the worker and the people they work closely with have to go into quarantine for two weeks.
McKenna said he is concerned about how the virus will impact MoDOT's winter operations.
"Because of the pandemic, if we end up losing crews for a multi-week period to quarantine related to the virus, we can literally, if we're also short of crews, we may not be able to send crews from one county to assist another county, as we typically do," McKenna said.
MoDOT started its hiring process on Aug. 1. McKenna said there has been a good turnout of people applying to the job thus far, but they still have a lot of spots to fill.
"Our big challenge as we bring them in is to be able to follow the CDC guidance for social distancing while we're training," McKenna said. "It's a very complicated component piece because we have included a very important part of the training is ride-alongs during a winter event."
McKenna said MoDOT is working to adjust the training process in order to keep everyone healthy.
The average date for the first dusting of snowfall (0.10" or less) of the winter season is Nov. 19. In 2019, the first dusting of snow was on Oct. 31.
The average for the first inch or greater of snowfall is Dec. 14. In the 2019-2020 season, the first inch or greater of snowfall was on Nov. 11.
As the winter season is approaching, McKenna said he hopes to have a full crew, which consists of 3,200 operators.