It is difficult to find a single sector in the United States that isn’t struggling to find commercial drivers. There aren’t enough drivers to transport our goods. There aren’t enough drivers for ambulance services and non-emergency medical transportation. There aren’t enough drivers to operate school buses. Now, there aren’t enough drivers to move snow off our roads.
As a significant snowstorm moves up the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, it is evident that states across the entire country are having problems hiring enough people to clear snowfall from roadways. The Iowa Department of Transportation has filled two-third of its seasonal snow-clearing positions. Kansas is in the same position as Iowa. Montana only has half the winter workers the state needs for the season. Pennsylvania only has 40 percent of the drivers it needs.
Like every other shortage, the underlying cause of all of this is the current pandemic. Many drivers simply found employment or chose to retire. Additionally, state departments of motor vehicles were forced to offer services, and scores of commercial driving schools closed. These two factors have severely limited potential drivers’ access to commercial driver’s licenses.
The drivers who get their CDL have various job options and might not want to become seasonal snowplow drivers. From being on-call for literally the entire day to working a 12-hour shift in freezing temperatures when you do get called in, there’s little reason to take this seasonal job over full-time employment in another field desperate for drivers. State, county and municipal agencies are now competing against each other and the private sector for the same small pool of drivers.
Organizations are offering incentives to get full-time employees to go snowplowing and more people filling out applications for empty seasonal positions. The Colorado Department of Transportation is offering a $2,000 bonus for full-time road maintenance workers to volunteer to plow snow. State DOTs are paying seasonal employees a higher hourly wage than their full-time workers, which is fair considering that seasonal employers don’t receive any benefits. It is and is going to be a hard winter.