Washtenaw County is close to winter as a snow plow operator

WASHTENAW COUNTY, MI – As snow flurries begin to fly in Michigan, Washtenaw County officials are still recruiting snowplow drivers to clear approximately 2,257 miles of county and federal highways when the real storms hit.

“It’s been a special year this year,” said Emily Kizer, spokeswoman for Washtenaw County’s Road Commission. “We see, just like many other road authorities across the state, and really across the country, that we have a shortage of drivers.”

The road authority is currently hiring seven full-time truck driver jobs, Kizer said, about 11% of the winter workforce of 65 full-time drivers it normally maintains.

Labor shortages have frustrated employers looking for grocers, restaurant clerks, and clerks across the service industry. Counties across Michigan say the same goes for truck drivers.

Oakland County’s Roads Commission is looking for 30 snowplow drivers, several Detroit area news outlets reported. In Wayne County, that number is said to be 50.

What does this mean for Washtenaw County’s drivers in a wetter winter than average, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts?

“If we continue to see staff shortages, as with other road traffic authorities, it can take a little longer to survive a storm and tidy things up – longer than we would like and as many citizens would like. “Said Kizer.

And the winter snowfall is coming. MLive meteorologist Mark Torregrossa reports that the average date for the first inch of snow in the Ann Arbor area is November 27th.

Read more: Snow with lake effect: just cold air over warm water, right? Nope. Here’s a deeper look into the lake effect

Public sector officials cannot afford to throw money into the problem by offering sign-up bonuses or other cash incentives, Kizer said. They are struggling with jobs in the private sector, where the demand for truck drivers with commercial driving licenses is booming.

When hiring full-time and seasonal drivers with CDLs, Kizer emphasizes that the Road Commission emphasizes work-life balance, as well as health insurance and retirement benefits that start on the first day. The Commission drivers are represented by a union.

New drivers are hired for $ 20.41 an hour, with the option to move up over time under a collective agreement. Responding to winter snow and ice emergencies usually also means overtime pay, Kizer said.

The road authorities usually use snow plow and salt truck drivers on 46 routes. This includes all public roads outside the city or village limits in the district. The Michigan Department of Transportation is also entering into contracts with the agency to clear state highways and interstates.

How do the officials decide what should be cleared first in a storm? This is determined by a priority plan based on traffic volume and road classifications.

In general, busy main routes such as I-94, US 23, M-14 and paved county roads have first priority, followed by lower volume routes, subdivision roads, and gravel roads.

The commission can spend $ 3 million annually on winter maintenance, Kizer said. This year they are ready with road salt and equipment. “Our most valuable resource is the driver behind the wheel,” she said.

Drivers interested in working with the Commission can find job postings online. “We’re a great place to work and winter is a great time to start with us,” said Kizer, urging anyone with a CDL to turn to work.

“We will work hard to provide the best possible service to the public, regardless of our staff,” she said. “Every winter is a new adventure.”

Do you have any questions about winter road clearance in Washtenaw County? You can find the answers here.

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