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Staffing shortages to cause delays in Pacific Northwest snow, ice removal this winter

A snow plow works on clearing State Street in downtown Hood River, Ore., last December. The Oregon Department of Transportation is hiring to fill 167 vacant positions, of which 146 are snow plow drivers.
Courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management
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A snow plow works on clearing State Street in downtown Hood River, Ore., last December. The Oregon Department of Transportation is hiring to fill 167 vacant positions, of which 146 are snow plow drivers.

The Oregon Department of Transportation says staffing shortages will cause significant delays in snow and ice removal this winter.

Katherine Benenati, spokesperson for ODOT, said the shortage is the continuation of a trend that began last year.

“Right now the labor market is tight, and other states and employers are also having trouble hiring,” Benenati said.

At this time, the department is trying to fill 167 vacant snow plow driver and maintenance positions, up from 86 open positions at this time last year and only 29 open positions in the same time frame in 2019.

Of the current vacant positions, 146 are for snow plow drivers. According to Benenati, ODOT is trying to fill those vacant positions, hire and train people as fast as they can.

“The level of service people expect from us may not be what they see this winter,” she said.

That means more chain requirements, more roads and passes being closed for longer. It means roads less traveled won’t be prioritized. It also means folks travelling this winter have to prepare, and plan ahead.

Those planning to be on the road this winter can use TripCheck to plan ahead. The app allows folks to see real-time road closures and construction projects, and check for delays.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Chris Gonzalez