Some cities and towns struggling to hire snow plow drivers for the winter

Snow

JOHNSTON, R.I. (WLNE) – Some cities and towns across Rhode Island are struggling to hire snow plow drivers for the incoming winter.

The Town of Johnson is now offering $1,000 bonuses to vendors who sign up to help. The Mayor says they are short about half their typical number of drivers this time of year.

“I ask the residents of Johnston to be a little more patient. The work will get done, it just might not get done right away,” Mayor Joe Polisena said. “If you work for us and respond when you’re called for us, at the end of the season, we’ll give you a $1,000 stipend. It’s going to be a $12-15,000 hit on our budget. Our budget is only $175,000 for snow removal, but that always goes over because you can’t predict Mother Nature.”

With over 175 miles of road, only seven vendors signed up this season. That’s down from about a dozen or more in previous years. The town also lost four DPW employees, making for a less than ideal response for big snowstorms.

“We just can’t get workers,” Mayor Polisena said. “I don’t know where they all are to be honest with you. I don’t know where they all went.”

As for Providence, a spokesperson for the Mayor says the city is ready for the winter. They have 68 snow cars and drivers ready to get to work with about 50 contracted drivers ready for larger storms, similar to numbers they’ve had in previous years.

Across Southern New England, that shortage is being felt from towns all the way up to the state’s Department of Transportation.

In Rhode Island, DOT is in much better shape than many others.

“This year we have signed up already 275 vendor trucks with the drivers. Last year this time, we had 350,” Robert Rocchio, RIDOT Chief Engineer said. “While we’re not up to next year, it’s enough to get the job done.”

Rocchio says they are aggressively recruiting more, but are confident they are in a good place to respond to storms.

The state is already stocked with 75,000 tons of salt. Rocchio says there is no sign of any future supply issues with salt as well.

Categories: News, Providence, Rhode Island