ODOT says snow plow operator shortage is huge challenge

Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 9:44 PM PST
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MT. HOOD Ore. (KPTV) - With winter weather expected for some parts of the state this week, FOX 12 is preparing for a First Alert Weather Day as the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) said it’s bracing for impact. But they’re doing it amid a plow driver shortage they said could create some challenges.

People driving up to the mountains on Monday said the conditions and what they saw on the road had them on high alert.

“For the most part, we have four-wheel drive, so it’s all right. But there’s a lot of people on the side of the roads having trouble,” Rick Suarez, who was driving through the Mt. Hood area, said.

SEE ALSO: Portland metro winter weather preparation in full swing

“When we were coming over, about 10 miles down the road, you can’t really see the road because there’s a lot of snow dust,” Turina Wallulatum, , who was driving through the Mt. Hood area, said.

A spokesperson for ODOT said if the winter weather ramps up in a couple of days, their biggest challenge is a shortage of snow plow operators.

“This is similar to what other transportation departments, other companies are seeing all over the country. We’re seeing a decline in trained operators,” Don Hamilton, spokesperson for Oregon Department of Transportation, said.

New federal licensing rules for drivers resulted in longer wait times to obtain a commercial driver’s license, which contributed to the driver shortage, ODOT said.

Hamilton said they are down dozens of drivers across the state, and people should expect some delays in getting the roads cleared.

“We may not get roads plowed as quickly as we want. We might not get salt, or sand, or de-icer on the roads as fast as we’d hope to get up there,” Hamilton said.

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ODOT asks people to be patient on the roads, especially if the conditions take a turn for several days.

“The danger is if we get hit hard, and the danger is we can’t get them rested, out, and ready to go,” Hamilton said.

People said they appreciate the crews out there keeping them safe on the roads.

“We just drive through it and they’ve got to work through it. I’m pretty sure they’ve seen a lot of things happen up here,” Suarez said.

ODOT said if you do find yourself driving in dangerous winter conditions, take it slow and be considerate of others on the road.