Connecticut DOT facing another snowplow driver shortage, but technology is helping
The Connecticut Department of Transportation is warning that it could take longer to plow the roads this winter due to a second straight year of staff shortages. But technology is helping clear the roads faster.
DOT leaders say the agency is down 122 drivers, and staffing is down 30% for mechanics to keep all those plows on the road. It’s due to a nationwide shortage of workers with commercial drivers licenses.
"It's been a little stressful – more on our plate that we've got to do,” said DOT crew leader Jonathyn Kardys.
Drivers can work up to 17 hours straight, so the state has enough to handle a short-duration storm. But DOT spokesman Josh Morgan said that anything longer will require outside contractors.
"It may take us a little bit longer to clear the roads, so we just ask the public to please be patient with us,” Morgan said.
Technology is helping. Snowplows are bigger and more efficient now, so they can cover more road space at once. Many controls are controlled electronically instead of manually, meaning drivers spend less time on maintenance and more time plowing. Plus, trucks now measure weather conditions and road temperatures, so drivers can adjust how they treat roads in real time.
"Getting bigger equipment, more reliable equipment, helps us – as opposed to some of the equipment they had 15, 20 years ago,” said Kardys.
More good news: DOT said it has ample salt and fuel supplies, partly due to a mild winter last year.
But ultimately, DOT needs more hands on deck. Morgan said the agency is looking at ways to better compete with municipal public works departments, as well as trucking companies offering big incentives.
"Looking at pay, looking at benefits, and looking at the job conditions. So we're doing everything we can to make the state of Connecticut -- the DOT -- an attractive place to work,” he said. "That's hopefully something we can address, but it's what we've heard in the hiring process and the recruitment process."
Kardys said there are many benefits to working for the state.
"It's a good job,” he said. “The pay is starting to come back to what people want to be paid at. I would say it is dangerous, but it's a fun job."
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