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Shortage of plow drivers could make winter commutes extra messy

ODOT searching for 500 drivers right now
Posted at 6:46 PM, Oct 18, 2021

CLEVELAND — We're just now getting our first real taste of fall weather, but the Ohio Department of Transportation is already setting its sights on winter.

With a quick turn to the right, and another to the left, mechanics make sure the plow on an ODOT truck is operating correctly.

It's part of the agency's annual operation readiness event.

"Every garage goes through it throughout the State of Ohio," said Isaac Hunt, ODOT spokesperson.

News 5 caught up with crews at the Cleveland garage Monday morning to get a look at the 150-point inspection process.

"They go through several checks to make sure every single piece of equipment is working properly in the garage," said Hunt.

The trucks might be ready, but some are at risk of sitting idle.

"Manning the trucks has been a statewide issue right now," said Hunt.

In District 12, which covers Lake, Cuyahoga, and Geauga counties, there are 98 trucks but only 157 drivers.

ODOT’s goal is to always have highways back up to speed two hours after the snow ends, but that time frame could be tougher to meet this season because of staffing.

"We have priority routes - interstates we're going to make sure those are up and running, but you might run into some roads that aren't as well-kept as you once previously saw them," said Hunt.

So, this winter, more than ever before, you may want to heed the advice during a snowstorm and just stay home if you can.

"Without the number of drivers that we normally have, it's going to be more difficult to hit every spot as we normally do," said Hunt.

Across Northeast Ohio, there are 641 drivers ready to hit the road who can work 12-to-16-hour shifts.

Statewide, ODOT is still looking for 500 seasonal snowplow operators.

And as we inch closer to winter, the agency is hoping to be fully staffed before that first flake flies.

"It could happen next week for all we know, so we just want to make sure all of our trucks and drivers are ready to go," said Hunt.