MoDOT facing ‘critical shortage,’ 30 percent understaffed ahead of winter season

Winter Weather Drill Thursday ahead of the winter season
MoDOT is holding its winter weather drill Thursday amid ongoing driver shortages.
MoDOT is holding its winter weather drill Thursday amid ongoing driver shortages.
Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 5:29 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 20, 2022 at 6:02 AM CDT
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MISSOURI (KCTV) - The Missouri Department of Transportation is “preparing for the worst” while trying to stretch its limited resources ahead of the winter season.

As MoDOT carries out its winter weather drill Thursday, the department is warning of a “critical shortage” of snow plow operators, saying it is 30 percent below the staffing it needs to cover more than one shift in a statewide winter storm.

The statewide winter weather drill trains snow plow operators on their designated routes so they are aware of the curbs and obstacles that might be hidden by snow or ice during the winter. It is also an opportunity to inspect and calibrate every piece of equipment ahead of the winter season.

MoDOT said crews will head out Thursday morning after 8 a.m. in rural areas and at 9 a.m. for urban areas. The drill will be over by 3 p.m.

Employees will read the roads and react to a simulated forecast of significant snow for the entire state. The department’s emergency operations centers will activate as the maintenance employees go to the trucks. This gives drivers a test and the emergency communications systems as well.

The driver shortage follows years of high turnover, and the department is concerned that could have consequences in the coming months.

“If a widespread winter storm lasts more than one 12-hour shift, we will not have enough employees to fill all the trucks on the second shift, and therefore it will take longer to clear the roads,” said MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna. “Delays could be significant and will impact all regions of the state.”

MoDOT says it spent more than $53 million on winter operations last year and used more than 151,000 tons of salt, along with 2.4 million gallons of salt brine and 454,000 gallons of beet juice. But the department needs more drivers to match those increases in operations. Emergency operators can make $17 to $19 an hour, depending on their level of experience.

Click here for MoDOT’s full statement on staffing ahead of the winter season, and to sign up for statewide news and text alerts from the department.

Motorists are encouraged to stay up to date on road conditions during the winter season by using the Traveler Information Map. We have a link available HERE to take you to that and it’s available on your phone through the app store.