Snowplow Operator Shortages Leave States Adrift, Survey Finds

By: - March 1, 2022 12:00 am

A snowplow clears Route 307 in Jefferson, Ohio, last month. Many states are experiencing higher-than-expected snowplow driver vacancies. Warren Dillaway/The Star-Beacon via The Associated Press

A shortage of snowplow drivers has hit states hard this winter, a new survey has found.

Eighty-four percent of transportation officials who responded to a survey by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials reported they are experiencing higher than normal snowplow operator vacancies.

The association’s survey, conducted in January and February, got responses from 31 state departments of transportation and 51 public works agencies across the United States.

It found that 81% of the vacancies were attributed to a lack of full-time employees. Others were due to problems finding seasonal workers or private contractors.

A quarter of those who responded said they’ve had to change their level of service as a result of the shortage.

Jim Tymon, the association’s director, said in a news release that the goal of snowplow operations is to keep the traveling public safe and allow emergency responders to reach people.

“Unfortunately, this season, our survey shows that the shortage of snowplow drivers is making this critical work far more difficult,” Tymon said.

Many city and state transportation officials say that during the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve been having a tough time finding snowplow operators because of a tight labor market, uncompetitive salaries, retirements and job switches.

Officials say they’re competing with private industry to hire drivers with commercial licenses; such drivers have been in high demand and can make much more money driving trucks.

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Jenni Bergal

Jenni Bergal covers transportation, infrastructure and cybersecurity for Stateline. She has been a reporter at Kaiser and the Center for Public Integrity.