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Kansas, Missouri brace for snow removal delays amid driver shortages

Snow on southbound 71 Highway.png
Posted at 9:35 PM, Nov 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-15 23:52:29-05

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The next time mother nature drops even two inches of snow in the Kansas City area, public works officials say it may take twice as much time to get rid of it.

"Normally, what we would do, is before a storm pre-treat bridge overpasses," Drake Jennings, area superintendent for the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) said. "Now, I’m going to try to pretreat as much roadway as I possibly can."

Jennings is short 16 snowplow drivers in his region.

Going into winter, he's figuring out where to find some more to keep Johnson County's highways and interstates clear around the clock.

"I will be able to borrow some of our construction employees that carry CDLs," Jennings said.

KDOT says they're facing a 30% shortage and the situation isn't any better across the stateline.

"In the last seven months, we've lost more than 70 employees a month," Patrick McKenna, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) said. "In the last four of that—it’s been over 80. That's way off the charts."

MoDOT usually hires about 200 or so seasonal workers in August, but for the first time ever they actually got further behind, and the numbers haven't improved.

"If your road isn’t in the circumstance that you’d like, it's not the plow drivers’ fault," McKenna told KSHB 41 News. "Look, this is a systemic issue that we have across the whole system. We're trying to resolve it, but where we're a little bit behind the gun here."

While other industries are offering hiring bonuses and other incentives, MoDOT and KDOT says their budget is up to lawmakers.

In Overland Park, starting pay for maintenance workers, who are the ones behind the wheel of a snowplow, went up from $16 to $18 an hour.

But there hasn't been a sudden rush of applications.

"You see it up and down when you’re driving down the street, you see all the help wanted signs out," Joshua Welge, manager of maintenance operations for Public Works at the City of Overland Park said. "We’re impacted the same as all those other businesses are just be patient just like you are everybody else, we’re all facing the same issues."

Anyone intersted in applying for jobs with MoDOT, KODOT or Overland Park, people can visit the links below: