ODOT warns staffing shortage could lead to slick roads this winter season

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is warning staffing shortages — especially a lack of snow plow drivers — could make for difficult driving this winter.

“You may see more snow on the road, you may see a little bit less treatment, so we are really recommending that folks take their time,” said Ted Miller with ODOT.

ODOT was already short-staffed in 2020, and now the problem is following the agency into 2021. Miller said a lot of employees are retiring, making the shortage worse.

“Portland is one of the areas where we have lost a few people,” Miller said. “We are down 30 TMS2s, which are people that go out and plow the roads.”

Miller said ODOT is actively looking for people to fill these roles. Statewide, ODOT employs about 1,100 snow plow drivers. As of last week, 146 of those positions were vacant.

There are open positions for both full and part time. They pay anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 a month.

With so many open positions in an already tight labor market, plowing the roads could be a big challenge this winter.

“You may see more road closures, that’s possible. Those will be those roads that are lower priority that we hit only once or twice a shift,” Miller said.

The Washington Department of Transportation is also seeing similar staffing shortages. WSDOT Assistant Supervisor Jeff Wilson said they will have to cover all priority roads first, and they’ll have people fill in on certain positions.

Portland Bureau of Transportation officials say they are not concerned about staffing levels. They have a few openings, but they are prepared to handle the winter weather and have fill-ins ready.

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