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US towns are offering R4,800 per hour to lure snowplough drivers away from delivery jobs

Business Insider US
DANVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA, UNITED STATES - 2021/02/22
A Pennsylvania Department of Transportation snow plough clears a snow-covered road in February 2021. (Getty)
  • Some US towns are offering snowplough drivers the equivalent of R4,800 an hour, government records show.
  • The state of Colorado raised annual salaries to $40,000 (R620,000) and is offering "snow bonuses" up to $2,000, 9News reported.
  • It's an attempt to lure in applicants with a commercial licences, as drivers flock to higher-paying trucking and delivery jobs.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

States across America are short hundreds of snow-plough drivers this winter, causing some towns to raise wages up to $310 an hour – the equivalent of R4,800 per hour – and offer R30,000 "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 in the USA.

The snow-plough 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 (around R430) 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 snow storms this week, 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-plough operators, but is missing 55% of the temporary workers typically hired during the winter. The state's seasonal commercial driver positions range from $17.48 to $19.72 (around R300) an hour. 

Snowplough 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 snowploughs and up to $155 an hour for wheel loader drivers with a 3.6 metre plough, per the city's website.

In central Massachusetts, Worcester's snowplough application offers "extended season rates" that pay an additional $10 an hour for drivers who plough 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 (around R620,000), and is offering $2,000 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-plough drivers are so in-demand

On top of needing a commercial drivers licence, many snow-plough 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 emphasised the long hours required of snow-plough 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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