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MODOT, public works departments work to solve snowplow driver shortage

Overland Park snowplow driver
Posted at 6:42 PM, Dec 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-30 22:41:01-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If you see a snowplow driver out on the road this weekend, give them plenty of space and patience.

Many cities and transportation departments are facing staffing shortages but say they'll do the best they can.

In November, KSHB 41 News spoke with Patrick McKenna, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, who said the department has lost more than 70 employees a month in the last seven months and more than 80 employees in the last four of that. He called it "way off the charts."

Kansas City district communications manager for MoDOT Melissa Black said she couldn't provide any hard numbers on staffing currently, but the department is definitely not where it would like to be.

"It changes every day, and it kind of changes by region every day," Black said. "I do know we are short, but the good thing about us is that we can work together, we are all one team. So if, for instance, we have an area that doesn’t have as many folks, we can pull trucks and people from another area."

Black said crews spent Thursday keeping a close eye on the forecast. They will start patrolling routes Friday evening.

"The biggest message we could send everybody right now is to go ahead and put your plan together for the holiday, figure out where you are going to be and basically stay there — plan on not getting out," Black said.

Because the department has been in a push to hire workers, Black said this weekend will be the first winter storm experience for many of the new drivers.

"Basically we are going to be out there trying to educate people this first time and get them comfortable with the routes, and again it kind of goes back to why we really hope everybody stays home and gives us room to work," Black said.

MoDOT isn't alone in the struggle to find maintenance workers over the last few months.

Meg Ralph, spokesperson for the city of Overland Park, said the city is in a pretty good spot for this weekend.

"We have coverage for all areas of the city, so we feel like as long as residents can be patient with us, we will get to everybody that we need to get to with the storm," Ralph said.

Since many of the city's drivers are brand new, Ralph is asking residents to be patient with them as they will likely be driving slowly and cautiously.