A shortage of snowplow operators is impacting U.S. states from Oregon to Ohio, with transportation officials blaming low wages and a tight labor market.
The shortfall could make roads less safe as winter weather arrives, including thethat is now sweeping across the nation and prompting blizzard warnings from Montana to New York, experts say.
The average hourly wage for a snowplow operator is $25 an hour, but trade association National Coalition for Open Roads (NCFOR) said earlier this month that the wage isn’t sufficient, especially as can make almost as much at fast-food restaurants. State transportation agencies are taking steps such as lowering the minimum age to drive a snowplow to 18, but shortages remain, the group said.
“State transportation officials have repeatedly told us they simply can’t fill many driver positions,” said Doug Anderson, the incoming chairman of NCFOR, in the statement.
The shortage is particularly acute in Western states, the group said. The starting wage for snowplow drivers in those states ranges from a low of $17.50 an hour in Nevada to $26 an hour in California.
To be sure, the shortage isn’t new for the 2022-2023 winter season, with states a year ago also having reported that they lacked sufficient snowplow drivers. The issue is tied to the labor-market , which led many older workers to retire and some people to opt to sit out of the job market due to illness or other concerns. Those trends are causing the and making it tougher for employers to fill open roles.
The Ohio Department of Transportation recently told Axios that it was still trying to hire two dozen workers to plow roads, which means some of the state’s roadways may require three hours or more to be cleared of snow, rather than the agency’s goal of two hours.
Oregon officials warned in late November that they were heading into winter without enough snowplow operators, with about 40 vacancies for seasonal and permanent positions on its road maintenance team in the state’s eastern part. Other states including Utah and Wyoming have also warned about a shortage of snowplow operators this winter.
—With reporting by the Associated Press.
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