Worker shortages may impact snow removal on Kansas, Missouri highways this winter

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas and Missouri transportation officials are warning the public to be patient. Clearing roads from ice and snow will likely take a lot longer this winter.

Both the Kansas and Missouri transportation departments are experiencing significant driver shortages for snowplows and salt trucks used to treat interstates and highways when weather turns bad. That means snow and ice may not be cleared as quickly as it has been in the past.

“It’s going to take us longer to get things cleared,” Melissa Black, a spokesperson for MoDOT said on Tuesday.

KDOT said that as of Tuesday, it’s about 30% short of snowplow operators needed to be fully staffed across the state. In the Kansas City region, KDOT is short about 200 employees still, engineer Mike Rinehart told FOX4.

“We’ve struggled to get applicants,” Rinehart said. “In the daytime, they may not recognize as much difference from the past, but it sure helps when we can accomplish a lot during the nighttime shift. Without a full staff, you’re unlikely to see as much happening during the nighttime shifts.”

To help address the shortage, the agency plans to use every department employee who has a valid Commercial Driver’s License to plow snow. It also plans to hire seasonal employees to address the shortages.

Across state lines, Black said MoDOT is short by several hundred employees compared to the army of equipment operators they’ve used in past winters.

“We just haven’t found enough people to fill the seats,” Black said. “We just don’t have enough people out there willing to work for what we’re willing to offer as our pay, frankly. Competitively, In the market, we aren’t competing as well as some other places can.”

Both KDOT and MoDOT have equipment operator jobs posted on their external human resources websites.

Equipment truck operator jobs with MoDOT pay $15.25 per hour. KDOT job postings show their full-time drivers make about a dollar more. KDOT is hiring seasonal truck drivers at $25/hour, but those hires won’t receive benefits, such as health insurance. Those salaries are set by legislators in each state.

A CDL is required to drive heavy trucks, including snowplows and salt trucks, in Missouri and Kansas. 

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