Staffing challenges continue as Missouri Transportation Department plans winter drill

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(The Center Square) – Missouri drivers might see some Department of Transportation snow removal equipment on Thursday during its annual winter operations drill, but the agency wishes more trucks could be on the road.

Despite hiring more employees, the agency remains understaffed and clearing Missouri’s roads of snow would be a significant challenge during a severe storm.

“While MoDOT has successfully hired approximately 100 new maintenance employees this summer, we’re still several hundred employees below what’s needed to cover more than one shift in a statewide storm,” Becky Allmeroth, chief safety and operations officer of MoDOT, said in a statement. “Nearly 27% of our snowplow operators have less than three years of experience. Those three years did not include many significant winter storms, making this training more critical than ever.”

The starting salary for a full-time maintenance worker is $19.08 per hour, according to the MoDOT website, and is dependent on the level of experience and area of operation. An additional $3 to $6 per hour is possible for employees working winter/emergency operations activities, according to the website. Applicants must be at least 18 and successfully pass a criminal background check and drug screening. A misdemeanor or felony conviction disqualifies applicants from employment.

Emergency operators must be at least 18 and have a valid Class A or B Commercial Driver’s License with interstate designated status and no air-brake restrictions. Depending on experience, emergency operators can earn $22.08 to $27.44 per hour.

The winter drill will begin on state routes at 8 a.m. in rural areas, at 9 a.m. in urban areas and should be complete by 3 p.m. The exercise will have MoDOT employees responding to a simulated forecast of significant snowfall throughout the entire state. It will include activating the state’s emergency operations centers and all emergency communications systems will be tested.

All employees involved in winter operations will be deployed to their trucks. All trucks, motor graders, snow blowers and tractors will be inspected and calibrated to ensure safe and efficient operations and conserve materials.

MoDOT currently has approximately 3,000 employees throughout the state who work to clear roads and bridges during winter storms.

“Safety is the cornerstone of everything we do at MoDOT,” said Allmeroth. “The drill ensures that proper equipment, plowing techniques and safety measures are used by every MoDOT employee.”

Last year, MoDOT spent $33 million on winter operations. It spread 63,000 tons of salt, 957,000 gallons of salt brine and 147,000 gallons of beet juice. MoDOT maintains 33,891 miles of state roads.

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