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Towns scrambling to hire plow truck drivers with winter on its way

12/10/2021

A dearth of truck drivers may pose snow problems for much of the country this year.

As per usual, no one knows for sure if will be a white Christmas, or if the winter will be especially stormy. But if one or both come to fruition, there's also some question about how quickly snowy roads will be cleared, as truck and plow drivers are in short supply.

Throughout several portions of the U.S., city, town and community officials are seeking to hire as many truck drivers as possible for snow removal due to ongoing staffing shortages — and they're going to various lengths to encourage individuals to apply. In Massachusetts, for example, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is paying more than $31 per hour to experienced plow truck drivers, NBC 10 Boston reported.

Some willing to pay an hourly rate of over $100
However, if drivers have their own transportation, the earning potential is considerably more, with cities like Lowell, Worcester, Sandwich and Chelmsford offering upwards of $125 per hour. Officials in Watertown, which is a suburb of Boston, are poised to pay $200 per hour to people who have their commercial driver's licenses.

These high-paying job opportunities all stem from the ongoing shortage that is not only affecting retailers and logistics firms, but local governments and small-business owners as well. Chris Ferrera, who owns a towing company based in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, told NBC 10 Boston recruitment has been a major challenge for him and his company.

In Vermont, which borders Massachusetts to the north, Essex Public Works Director Dennis Lutz told ABC News affiliate WFFF that a shortage of truck drivers is bound to become a problem for residents this winter — which could lead to snowbound conditions after blizzards and nor'easters.

"Neighboring communities all around Vermont are short of heavy-duty truck drivers, bus drivers as well … but especially plow truck operators," Lutz warned.

Indeed, of the 350 plow operators that the Vermont Agency of Transportation typically has on staff, it currently has 100 fewer individuals than it normally does, WFFF reported.

Unskilled labor part of the challenge
Todd Law, who is responsible for district maintenance with Vermont Agency of Transportation, told WFFF that what's contributing to the problem is training, or lack thereof. While a commercial truck driver may be able to drive a big rig, that doesn't mean they know how to operate a plow, Law noted, saying "there are just too many controls, too many things to do wrong."

Another cause of the plow driver shortage is COVID-19. In a recent statement, the Washington State Department of Transportation informed residents that due to "pandemic staffing issues," the department has approximately 300 fewer workers than it normally does to tackle snow removal in the state this winter, CDL Life reported. As a result, roads, bridges and passes will likely be closed for "longer than normal during and after significant storms."

In addition to increasing pay to shore up staff, states and department of transportation are making assignment adjustments among current work crews so all of the roads that need to be cleared of snow this winter are taken care of. 

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