Breaking News
More () »

CDOT makes progress on hiring more plow drivers

Like many employers, the state has faced recent staffing challenges – including hiring enough staff to drive snow plows.

COLORADO, USA — It has been a very busy season for snow-plow drivers. The “plow” season, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), runs from October through Mother’s Day.

“Our snowpack across the state is 150% where it normally is,” said John Lorme, CDOT’s director of maintenance and operations. Their teams even track how many miles of snow they’ve plowed.

“At the end of January, we have about 3.5 million lane miles of plowing. And last year we were about 2.4 [million].”

It’s a lot of miles to cover, for an agency that has been struggling – like so many others – with staffing challenges. It's not a new problem, but it’s a problem that got pretty dire last year.

“In June/July, our entry-level vacancy rate was about 325 give or take employees,” Lorme said. But those numbers have improved since.

“Right now, we’re down to low 200s [vacancies]…I don’t know the exact number off the top of my head but we just had 20 new people start on Monday,” he said. 

And Lorme said the separation rate – the number of people who leave the job – is also down 40% compared to last year.

“It means we have less people retiring, leaving for other jobs. We have more stability – we’re holding onto our employees longer, our training investments are paying off.”

Those investments include a number of actions, including raising pay for entry-level positions and increasing the housing stipend offered to employees in certain regions of the state. CDOT is also starting a new program to build and run workforce housing, with plans to break ground on two sites in this spring.

“For a state project it's moving at lightspeed and… we already [have] people lined up to get a set of keys at these houses,” he said.

But perhaps the most immediate relief, according to Lorme, is thanks to the state’s new CDL training program.

“Our CDL program that we instituted in March has been amazing. We put over 200 new employees in our new program,” Lorme said.

“We’re hiring trainees – people who we traditionally did not hire in the past – without a CDL [commercial driver’s license] or heavy equipment experience. We’ll hire them roughly around $20 per hour, put them through a 3-week training course to get their CDL and then we give them about a 90-day window to do mentoring/peer training and they come out the other side of that a fully qualified transportation maintenance specialist, or a highway maintainer.”

But snow doesn’t wait for staffing levels to improve.

In the meantime, CDOT will shift crews from different parts of the state to cover plowing needs as they arise.

“We have an almost semi-permanent rotation in the high country. From basically Silverthorne to Glenwood Canyon, 82 to Aspen, we have a 7-day on, 7-day off rotation,” Lorme said. “They earn extra pay, extra OT, some per diem. This year has been kind of – all volunteer. Normally we have to ‘voluntold’ people. We had a lot of volunteers this year.”

“We’re also surging forces from the plains, from our Greeley patrol section and our Pueblo sections, up to places like Steamboat, which got epic snow this year. They probably got two years’ worth of snow already,” he continued. “We’re sending up people to give the crews we have up there some relief – because they’ve been on snow shifts since before Thanksgiving, nonstop!”



Before You Leave, Check This Out