BILLINGS — Winter might feel extra long this season because of a nationwide shortage of snowplow drivers.
Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) Equipment Bureau Chief, Walt Kerttula, says this isn’t a surprise.
“This has been happening for maybe a couple of years. This is the worst year,” said Kerttula.
MDT isn’t sure why the number of snowplow drivers is dwindling. The state typically hires about 150 temporary snowplow drivers each season.
“We’re having a tough time hiring, especially our temporary snowplow drivers for this winter,” Kerttula said.
States across the country are utilizing incentives to hire new recruits, and Montana is no different.
“We’ll take someone with no experience, who’s never been in a truck. And we’ll teach them, train them on how to operate that truck and help them get their CDL and go through their testing and put them on the road plowing snow,” Kerttula said.
Other states are also offering big incentives. Colorado plans to pay drivers a $2,000 performance bonus. Michigan is now offering its drivers $30 an hour on top of overtime. Several Massachusetts towns are paying their drivers $310 an hour just to snowplow.
Fortunately, Billings Public Works Street Traffic Division Manager Derick Miller says the city is better off than most this winter.
“We’re very fortunate here in Billings, we’re not experiencing any shortages,” Miller said.
Even if the shortage affected Billings, the city has a backup plan. “One of the ways that we mitigate it is by calling on other Public Works departments,” said Miller.
Roads will be plowed in Montana, but it might take extra work to make it happen. “It just may be that we’re going to have to pull resources from somewhere else,” said Kerttula.