Fact check: MODOT plow shortage

1092

This claim was circulating on social media recently:

All you Missouri people out there. Be prepared for a bad winter. Report I heard said that MODOT is only staffed for 56% of it's snow plow drivers and truck repairs are backed up because of parts availability and mechanics. Seems the state only pays drivers between $14 and $16 per hour and mechanics only start at like $16 per hour. Word is there are less than 15 mechanics for the whole northern half of the state. Only 2 plow drivers scheduled for the whole of I270 and it will be 1 lane only!

For the facts, we checked with Linda Horn, communications director for the Missouri Department of Transportation. Here’s what she had to say:

The statement about 2 plow drivers on all of I-270 is not correct.  MoDOT has more than 1500 trucks and 2700 workers ready to plow in winter weather. 

MoDOT has been averaging a turnover of 600 employees per year for the past five years. In 2021, we have had six straight months with more than 70 employees leaving our employment. On that pace, we could lose 800 employees throughout the department by the end of the year. Pay is the biggest concern and our current entry level for maintenance workers is $15.25/hour.

Despite our best efforts, we have not made progress hiring all the new staff we need. We are several hundred employees below what we need to cover more than one shift in a statewide storm. 

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.  We anticipate it will take us longer to clear the roads after a storm. 

MoDOT addresses storm fighting on a statewide level.  If one maintenance building has less staff due to staffing, COVID, flu or other things, adjacent buildings help out. We also send strike teams from other parts of the state to help out in other areas if we don't have a statewide storm.

So while MODOT does have an ongoing staffing problem, they will be able to provide appropriate service unless we have a lengthy, heavy storm. Of course, when it does snow, it’s safest to curtail unnecessary travel, and when you must drive, give plows plenty of space to work.