Kansas faces staffing shortage for winter highway clearing

Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 10:58 AM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KWCH) - The Kansas Department of Transportation says it is facing a staffing shortage that could slow the clearing of highways in winter storms.

The department said Tuesday that it is about 30% short of being fully staffed with snowplow operators across the state. The agency said the staffing shortage is worse this year than it has been in the past.

“We have a staff shortage on equipment operators that is similar to staff shortages that are being seen nationwide right now,” said KDOT District 5 Public Affairs Manager Tim Potter.

Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz said the staffing shortage, down about 30 percent, means that with inclement weather, some highways might not be cleared as quickly as they have been in the past. She said she’s warning motorists now so they can plan ahead or alter travel plans when the state faces winter storms.

Louis Harrison is among Kansans concerned with the KDOT staffing shortage. He travels about 20 miles from Benton to Wichita to buy groceries and go to the doctor. He worries what the shortage will mean for his commute, especially with some doctor’s appointments being critically important, not easily rescheduled.

For Harrison, it’s the ice you sometimes can’t see that makes him less comfortable driving in the winter time.

“I don’t like to get out on the ice at all, because so often, it’s black ice. You don’t even know you’re on it,” he said.

To help address the shortage, the agency will deploy all employees who have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to plow snow and hire seasonal workers. For people interested in working at KDOT, go to the state’s employment website at http://jobs.ks.gov/ KDOT will assist selected applicants in obtaining a CDL upon hiring, including paying for training.

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