WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A driver dilemma for the Kansas Department of Transportation. KDOT has the most openings of any government agency in the state. The agency says it only has 75% of the snowplow drivers it needs and is warning drivers to expect road delays this winter.
A spokesperson for KDOT says the biggest reason for the shortage is that after drivers are trained to get their commercial driver’s license, which the agency pays for. Drivers then leave for higher-paying jobs.
“We lose people because higher paying companies recruit them from us. We train our new equipment operators that don’t have a CDL, so we send them through the CDL training and get them certified, and sometimes then they just get a better job offer because they now have the CDL,” said Tom Hein, Kansas Department of Transportation Wichita public affairs manager.
KDOT needs to hire 300 snowplow operators before winter hits.
“There’s a potential that we will not be clearing the roads as quickly as we would like. We’re letting motorists know in advance, so they will be patient and understanding,” said Steve Hale, KDOT director of communications.
The agency is already brainstorming solutions to the problem that appears inevitable.
“Deploying others at KDOT, including supervisors and managers, who have CDL’s, commercial driver licenses, to get in the mix, if the situation warrants it,” said Hale.
The agency is dealing with the shortage across the state, not just in rural counties.
“Wichita is kind of hurting right now, our three shops in Sedgwick County,” said Hein.
In a severe storm, KDOT is ready to call on snowplow operators in Butler, Harvey, and Kingman counties to extend their routes.
“We’ve got a Plan B, where those counties around us will send their snowplow drivers further into Sedgwick County to help us out,” said Hein.
Applications are open now to be a seasonal snowplow driver. The pay for the seasonal position can be up to $26 per hour.