Snowplow-driver shortage means some towns are offering $310 an hour and $2,000 'snow bonuses' for people with a commercial driver's license

A snowplow drives past downed power lines, Thursday, March 8, 2018, in Walpole, Mass.
A snowplow on March 8, 2018, in Walpole, Massachusetts.AP Photo/Steven Senne
  • Massachusetts towns are offering snowplow drivers up to $310 an hour, government records show.

  • Colorado raised annual salaries to $40,000 and is offering "snow bonuses" up to $2,000, 9News said.

  • It's an attempt to lure in applicants as drivers flock to higher-paying trucking and delivery jobs.

States across the country are short hundreds of snowplow drivers this winter, causing some towns to raise wages up to $310 an hour and offer $2,000 "snow bonuses."

The salary hikes are an attempt to compete with private companies for applicants with commercial driver's licenses as workers flock to higher-paying delivery and trucking jobs.

The snowplow-driver shortage "is something all states are seeing right now as more and more private delivery jobs have been created during the pandemic," Barbara LaBoe, a spokesperson for Washington state's Department of Transportation, told Insider.

Washington is 140 staff short of its normal 1,500 winter-operation workers, LaBoe said. Starting salaries for state-highway-maintenance workers range from $18.93 to $27.90 an hour.

The state's Department of Transportation has considered raising wages but "can't move as quickly as private industry in matters such as this," she added.

Despite this week's snow storms, staffing shortages did not cause any road closures in Washington or Pennsylvania, two Department of Transportation spokespeople said.

Pennsylvania hired 94% of its permanent snowplow operators but is missing 55% of the temporary workers typically hired during the winter. The state's seasonal CDL-operator positions range from $17.48 to $19.72 an hour.

Snowplow drivers with their own commercial vehicles such as construction loaders will likely make the most this storm season.

Watertown, a suburb 20 minutes outside Boston, is offering hourly wages ranging from $86 to $310, depending on the type of equipment used, government documents show. The town's hourly salary for a "snow melter" is listed at a whopping $5,500 — but the required machine can cost up to $3 million.

Lowell is offering $85 an hour for pickup truck drivers with snowplows and up to $155 an hour for wheel-loader drivers with a 12-foot plow, the city's website says.

In central Massachusetts, Worcester's snowplow application offers "extended season rates" that pay an additional $10 an hour for drivers who plow before December 1 or after April 1, bringing its highest-paid position to $190 an hour.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has raised annual road-maintenance-worker salaries to $40,000 and is offering $2,000 performance-based "snow bonuses," the local NBC affiliate 9News said.

Andrew Grider, the president of Southern Sun Landscaping in Virginia, told the local NBC news station that he had to turn down clients because his snowplow drivers were so in demand.

On top of needing a CDL, many snowplow operators are required to complete additional training and drive in dangerous weather conditions.

"Every snow operator knows you're usually working past that 12-hour limit, sometimes up to 24 or more hours," Grider said.

Mike Ruby, a Massachusetts resident, also emphasized on NBC Boston the long hours required of snowplow drivers and said the state's wage hikes were "pretty reasonable" considering "that you have to bring your truck and have to stay up all night and have to be prepared, and the truck has to be running."

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