Snowplow driver shortage affects Ohio

Pictured is a snowplow from the Ohio Department of Transportation. Photo courtesy of the Ohio Department of Transportation.

TJ Thompson | Contributing Writer

Millions of Ohioans rely on snowplow drivers to make their lives easier and safer during winter, but a recent shortage of drivers across the state is cause for concern. 

For two years Ohio has had a problem finding plow drivers. According to an article by Axios in 2022, “Around two dozen vacancies remain for full-time highway technicians within the two Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) districts that comprise central Ohio.” 

 This shortage is still a problem that ODOT is trying to figure out. Each year they work to fill as many as 500 seasonal positions, but they say it comes down to the demand for people with commercial driver’s licenses (CDL). 

Matt Bruning, the press secretary for ODOT, said, “The challenge we face is that people with a commercial driver’s license are in high demand.” 

This demand is causing CDL drivers to turn elsewhere when looking for a job. The trucking industry is a huge reason for this problem because it has more jobs to offer and pays better than plow driving. The average CDL truck driver in Ohio makes $30.09 an hour while the average CDL snowplow driver in Ohio makes $25.32 an hour and most of the time it is a part-time job since they are only needed during the winter months. 

 “I think, going forward, ODOT will have to do what other commercial haulers and public agencies have to do – reexamine the pay scale of employees,” Bruning said. He explained that though the salary isn’t the highest, there are plenty of benefits to being a seasonal driver, one of which being that many seasonal drivers end up with full-time employment through ODOT.

The safety of plow drivers might also be a reason for the shortage. WOSU Public Media recently quoted Bruning as saying there have already been 10 crashes involving snowplows this year, which is alarming because there were 26 crashes all winter in 2023. 

ODOT has expanded its outreach efforts in the summer and fall. 

 “We have events, participate in job fairs, and advertise positions via recruiting websites and in some areas through traditional media outlets,” Bruning said. ODOT is trying to gain employment from citizens living in urban areas but is faced with many struggles. When talking about these struggles Bruning said, “The challenges are amplified in urban areas where there are more opportunities available to CDL holders.” 

ODOT might dodge a bullet this winter. Ohio gets about 30 inches of snow each year, on average. But for ODOT, Ohio looks like it is going to have an almost snowless February. 

According to Susan Buchanan who is director of public affairs for the National Weather Service in Wilmington, “Ohio is expected to have below-normal precipitation in February.” This mild winter should allow ODOT to finish out the year with a shortage of drivers and still accomplish its job. 

Despite the shortage of snowplow drivers in the state Bruning assures that the employees ODOT has on staff can keep the people of Ohio safe on the roads. 

          “We’d certainly like to have more drivers, but we are able to accomplish the job,” he said.

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