Snow-plow driver shortage means some towns are offering $310 an hour and $2000 ‘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 drives past downed power lines, Thursday, March 8, 2018, in Walpole, Mass.
  • Mass. 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 $2000, 9News reported.
  • It's an attempt to lure in applicants with a CDL, as drivers flock to higher-paying trucking and delivery jobs. 

States across the country are short hundreds of snow-plow drivers this winter, causing some towns to raise wages up to $310 an hour and offer $2000 "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 snow-plow 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 state is currently 140 staff short of 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 DOT spokespeople confirmed.

Pennsylvania has been able to hire 94% of its permanent snow-plow 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 make the most this storm season. 

Watertown, a suburb 20 minutes outside of 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 pick-up truck drivers with snowplows and up to $155 an hour for wheel loader drivers with a 12-foot plow, per the city's website.

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 $2000 performance-based "snow bonuses," per the local NBC affiliate 9News.

Andrew Grider, the president of Southern Sun Landscaping in Virginia, told the local NBC news station that he's had to turn down clients because his snow-plow drivers are so in-demand

On top of needing a CDL, many snow-plow 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. 

Massachusetts resident Mike Ruby also emphasized the long hours required of snow-plow drivers on NBC Boston, and said the state's wage hikes are "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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