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Ohio Warns Plow Driver Shortage May Slow Snow Clearing

The state Department of Transportation is looking to hire 500 seasonal plow drivers ahead of winter, but is struggling to find workers. Without enough drivers, clearing roads of snow could take much longer than in prior years.

(TNS) — The Ohio Department of Transportation is looking to hire about 500 seasonal plow drivers for the upcoming winter season, and the agency cautioned that it could take longer to clear roads if those positions are not filled.

The agency, like many other employers across the U.S., is struggling to find workers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The task is complicated by the fact ODOT’s seasonal plow drivers must be qualified and have the correct CDL licensing to operate plow trucks, ODOT District 12 Cleveland spokesman Brent Kovacs said.

Typically, 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.

“The biggest thing after a storm is over, we like to have the road back to normal speeds within two hours after the storm ends,” Kovacs said. “That (getting the roads cleared) may take longer because we are having trouble hiring.”

In District 12, which includes Cuyahoga, Geauga and Lake counties, ODOT likes to have 157 drivers during the winter months, Kovacs said. He could not immediately say how many of those drivers are seasonal workers.

“Seasonal drivers for the winter make up about a third of our plow driving workforce,” Kovacs said. “We are experiencing the same issues as others looking for drivers.”

If this season ends up having a shortage of drivers, ODOT will prioritize areas that need to be plowed. The most important are the busiest routes, such as interstate highways. Secondary routes, such as state and U.S. routes, will be plowed later.

ODOT typically has more than 3,300 drivers who often work 12-hour shifts during a snowstorm, according to a news release.

“Like every other employer right now, we are struggling to find qualified workers to fill these positions this year,” ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks said in the release. “We’re doing everything we can to recruit the help we need to supplement our winter operations, but we do have concerns about finding drivers and mechanics in this challenging job market.”

While ODOT continues its efforts to recruit drivers, nearly 300 mechanics are busy doing 150-point checks on everything from the plow blade to the salt spinner of each truck in the fleet, the release says.

Forty-six plow trucks were damaged in crashes last year, Kovacs said. He urged drivers to give plow trucks enough room to do their job.

©2021 Advance Local Media LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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