ST. LOUIS – The Missouri Department of Transportation held its annual statewide winter operations drill Thursday, and with their staffing shortage, roads may take longer to clear this winter.
MoDOT says that nearly 20% of their plow operators have less than one year of experience and their monthly turnover rates are at historic levels. Thursday’s training is more critical than ever as they prepare for snow to fly.
“Today’s drill tests MoDOT’s winter battle plan to ensure our readiness to get our travelers back on Missouri’s roadways as quickly as possible after winter storms,” said Tom Blair, MoDOT’s district engineer for the St. Louis Region.
“One of the most valuable parts of today’s drill is that it allows our newest employees the opportunity to get familiar with driving a snowplow on their designated routes so that they are aware of curbs and raised islands and other things that might be hidden in the snow and ice.”
The drill also ensured that proper equipment, plowing techniques, and safety measures are used by every MoDOT employee.
But the biggest problem remains the lack of drivers. More than 70 employees have left MoDOT each month for the past six months
“Despite MoDOT’s best efforts we have not been able to make progress filling all of our vacancies,” Blair said.
“We are several hundred employees below what we need to cover more than one shift during a statewide storm. If a widespread winter storm lasts more than one 12 hour shift, we will not have enough employees to fill all of our trucks on that second shift. Therefore it will take longer to clear the roads.”
Before each storm, MoDOT will brief the public on what to expect on the roads and it may not be the news you want to hear.
“In some storms, I expect MoDOT will ask you to get to where you need to be and stay put until we are able to get all the roads completely clear and open,” said Blair.
How much longer could it take to get roads cleared? Depends on how many people they are able to hire.
“We’re hiring people as fast as we can right now and so if you want a job go to modot.org you can actually come work for us. We’re hiring, we’re training as fast as we can,” Blair said.
For information on job openings, visit modot.org.