As winter hits, Colorado sees shortage of snowplow drivers
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As winter weather descends on the state, there’s a shortage of snowplow drivers in Colorado.
Across the state, the Colorado Department of Transportation is still seeking to fill more than 100 snowplow drivers and highway maintenance employees. There’s currently at least one vacancy for a part-time employee on the Rabbit Ears Pass route.
“Nationwide, there’s a shortage of drivers that have a commercial driver’s license, and it’s impacting how many people we have out maintaining our roadways,” said CDOT Human Resources Director Susan Rafferty in a news release. “As we continue our push to hire more drivers, we’re doing what we can to better attract additional personnel.”
Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania and South Dakota have sought to hire more snowplow operators than state transportation agencies could fill, according to the transit industry news organization Transport Topics.
Locally, Routt County has filled all positions for seasonal snowplow drivers, said Geovanny Romero, project manager at Routt County Public Works. Some private snowplow services have permits to plow unmaintained county roads.
The city is still looking to fill one full-time position, Steamboat Springs Street Superintendent David Van Winkle said. This means other snowplow operators are increasing routes to cover the entire city, causing delays in coverage.
“In the meantime, I am plowing a route to ensure we maintain the level of service we currently have and hoping that we can find an operator in the near future,” he said.
CDOT has also loosened its Colorado residency requirements for plow operators. The agency has said it increased pay for temporary employees from $19 to $22 an hour and is allowing retired CDOT maintenance employees to earn $25 an hour or more to return to the wheel of a snowplow.
Municipal snowplow operators earn between $19 to $25 an hour, Van Winkle said.
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State of Colorado Water Commissioner Scott Hummer, whose position administers water rights in south Routt County, said longtime ranching families fear this is the worst year for water availability in their lifetimes.