MoDOT battles snow short-handed; Hundreds of snow plow drivers needed

Low pay makes it difficult to hire, retain drivers
MoDOT snow plow
Photo credit (MoDOT on Flickr)

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) says that despite the days upon days of snowy weather, it still has plenty of salt on hand. However, it is running short on another material that is key to keeping the streets clear: People.

Chief Safety and Operations Officer Becky Allmeroth says MoDOT is 401 employees short of fully staffing its available plows. The department recently tried to hire 500 drivers, but Allmeroth says because it pays just over $15 an hour, it was only able to hire 150, and some of them are leaving.

“Especially in the St. Louis area, anybody that has a CDL is very, very marketable right now,” she says. “They can even work for a city or county plowing streets and make a little more money or even work for Amazon.”

Allmeroth says because of budget cuts MoDOT has lost over 2,500 employees in the last four years. She says it takes several seasons for a new employee to get up to speed on driving or repairing a plow.

The number of plows is also an issue. Allmeroth says MoDOT has 1,550 trucks available, which is less than half as many as Illinois. She says because of the personnel shortage, one or two are sitting idle at each yard. Usually, 7 – 10% of the trucks are down for maintenance.

She says that number has been growing this week.

“The last couple of days,” she says, “the very, very extreme cold weather along with this very, very fine, powdery snow, it was actually sucking up into the filters and choking the trucks out.”

She says the bottom line is that the $.17-a-gallon gas tax passed over 20 years ago to fund MoDOT, is worth $.06-a-gallon now. So if taxpayers want to see more plows more often, “That’s one of the decisions you have to make as a taxpayer whenever you’re looking to see if you want to vote for a fuel tax increase.”

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