NW Kansas facing critical shortage for snowplow drivers

NW Kansas facing critical shortage for snowplow drivers
Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 7:05 PM CST
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HAYS, Kan. (KWCH) - Driving to northwest Kansas could get more challenging this winter season. The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) says it’s short of nearly 40 percent of its snowplow operators, and driving delays are expected due to the shortage and the heavy traffic on I-70.

Truck drivers like Jeremy Wheeler have concerns about what this means for the safety of drivers.

“If the ice builds up, then people, there is going to be a lot more accidents on the road. And, it’s just going to cause so much more headache. So, it’s not good,” said Wheeler.

KDOT Public Affairs Manager Lisa Mussman says northwest Kansas has about half the snowplow drivers it needs, and treating I-70 is the most important. She says the department has 20 openings in the area and KDOT is getting creative in recruiting.

“We do a lot of recruiting on our social media pages - on our Facebook and our Twitter. We also utilize the online classifieds that are provided out here. Word of mouth is our biggest tool though. So you know, utilizing our employees to let others know that we have opportunities available,” said Mussman.

New employees can start at $15 per hour. Once that employee receives their commercial driver’s license (CDL) their pay increases to $16.56 per hour.

Mussman says interstates like I-70 are always a top priority when it comes to plowing snow in Kansas. Even if you don’t drive in northwest Kansas, the slowdown could impact you.

“When the plows aren’t coming through, stuff ain’t going to get delivered,” said Wheeler. “There’s going to be a lot of hold back on everything really.”

KDOT says when the snow flies, it will do everything it can to keep these roads clear.

“It’s just the midwestern mentality. We put the nose to the grindstone and we’re going to get the job done, it just may take us a little bit longer this year than it has in years past, so we do ask the public to be patient with us,” said Mussman.

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