Montana lacks snow plow drivers, road clearing could be slow
A snow plow clears Big Mountain Road on Feb. 5. (Matt Baldwin/Daily Inter Lake)
| December 2, 2021 12:00 PM
HELENA (AP) — Montana's Department of Transportation warned residents Thursday that it could take longer to clear snow from highways this winter because the state has been unable to hire enough snow plow drivers.
The department is advertising for 89 temporary, part-time jobs for snow plow drivers and road maintenance workers.
"MDT is facing significant staffing shortages in a number of areas across the state and will work proactively to clear Montana's highways by shifting crews to the affected areas, when possible," the department's maintenance administrator Jon Swartz said in a statement.
The state has about half of the snow plow operators it needs for full staffing, Swartz said. To help with the shortage, the department is enlisting employees with Commercial Driver's Licenses to help with plowing as it continues to try to hire workers.
"Our snowplow operators work day in and day out, including weekends and holidays while putting in 12-hour shifts or longer, and do their best to keep the 25,000 lane miles of roads open for the traveling public," Swartz said.
Snow plow drivers are paid $22.34 an hour.
The department has 16 openings in Butte, 14 each in Kalispell, Missoula and Livingston, a dozen in the Helena area, 10 around Great Falls and six in Bozeman.
In some areas, the state is willing to train applicants and help them get commercial licenses, Swartz said.
"We want the traveling public to understand why it could take longer this season to clear highways during winter storms," Swartz said.
He added: "Knowing this helps motorists to plan ahead and adjust or even delay travel plans. This can increase safety for everyone and allow more time for our snowplow operators to clear the roads."