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Plow Truck Drivers In Demand As ODOT Prepares For Winter

Lane Avenue Bridge Covered In Snow
WOSU File Photo

It might be warm this week, but the Ohio Department of Transportation has already started preparing for the winter, and they might be looking at some personnel shortages.

ODOT began inspections of around 300 plow trucks earlier in the week at its Hilliard outpost, where its crews have been making sure each truck is ready to when Ohio's first snow hits.

While they have their trucks, they might not have their drivers. ODOT spokesperson Brooke Ebersole said the department is having trouble finding drivers with a CDL, or commercial driver's license. While there were no exact numbers, she said that compared to last year, the shortage of drivers now is more prominent.

"You've likely heard a lot of people searching for CDL drivers. I know the school bus industry is struggling with it, the semi-trucking industry is struggling with it, and ODOT is no exception to that."

Ebersole said ODOT's goal each winter is to have priority routes — like interstates and highways — in a drivable condition two hours after snow occurs. But if there's a shortage of drivers, it might take even longer.

"So the roads will still be clear, you will still have a passable route to work, but that timing of when that road might be passable for you again, that might have to change," Ebersole said. "Because now we're talking about drivers having to double or triple up on routes."

Ebersole said ODOT has yet to see what kind of interest CDL drivers will have in working for them as they plan recruitment events for this season.

Last year, ODOT spent 23 million dollars on snow and ice operations in Central Ohio. This included the department spreading around 141,000 tons of salt. Ebersole said it's hard to estimate how much this winter will cost ODOT since it depends on how much ice and snow the region gets.

"So until we how many storms we're really fighting against this winter, there's really no good way to know how much we're expecting to spend," Ebersole said. "[ODOT has] a projected budget for snow and ice, but the money and manpower is always there, no matter what the winter brings."

Michael Lee joined WOSU in 2021, but was previously an intern at the station in 2018. He is a graduate from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism where he obtained his master's degree, and an alumnus of Ohio State University. Michael has previously worked as an intern at the Columbus Dispatch and most recently, the Chicago Sun-Times.