Snowy weather is just around the corner. In preparation, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) will hold its annual winter operations drill on Thursday, Oct. 21. With high turnover rates and many positions still open, the training is more critical than ever.
“With nearly 20% of our plow operators with less than one year of experience, this training drill is important to be ready when snow flies,” said Becky Allmeroth, MoDOT chief safety and operations officer. “One of the most valuable parts of the drill is it allows our newest employees the opportunity to drive a snowplow over their designated routes so they are aware of curbs and raised islands that might be hidden in snow or ice.”
Despite the department’s best efforts, it has not made progress filling the winter operations vacancies. Additionally, the department is experiencing record high turnover, including more than 70 employees leaving every month for the past six months. “We are several hundred employees below what we need in order to cover more than one shift in a statewide storm,” said Patrick McKenna, MoDOT director. “If a widespread winter storm lasts more than one 12-hour shift, we will not have enough employees to fill all the trucks on the second shift and therefore it will take longer to clear the roads.”
During the drill, motorists may notice increased numbers of MoDOT vehicles on state routes. In rural areas, crews will deploy after 8 a.m. In urban areas, the drill will not begin until after 9 a.m. The exercise should be completed by 3 p.m.
MoDOT employees will react to a simulated forecast of significant snow for the entire state. The department’s emergency operations centers will activate and maintenance employees will be deployed to their trucks. Emergency communications systems will also be tested.
“The drill ensures that proper equipment, plowing techniques and safety measures are used by every MoDOT employee,” said Allmeroth. “In addition, every piece of equipment—every truck, motor grader, snow blower and tractor—is inspected and calibrated to conserve materials and operate efficiently and safely.”
MoDOT spent more than $58 million on winter operations last year and used over 139,000 tons of salt; 2.8 million gallons of salt brine; and nearly 490,000 gallons of beet juice. MoDOT has purchased 118,000 tons of salt to refill salt supplies and has a total of 240,000 tons available for use statewide this winter.
For information on road conditions across the state, safe traveling tips, and other winter weather information, visit www.modot.org.