December 12, 2017 10:30 AM, EST

PennDOT Seeking CDL Holders for Seasonal Maintenance Work

A snow plow works Interstate 79 in Zelienople, Pa.A snow plow works Interstate 79 in Zelienople, Pa. (Keith Srakocic/Associated Press)

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is seeking commercial driver license holders to take on temporary maintenance work as the state braces for inclement weather this winter.

A staff of 3,806 full-time equipment operators drive the agency’s 2,253 plow trucks. Each year, PennDOT hires temporary equipment operators to supplement this workforce.

This year, the agency is looking to fill 822 temporary positions. Spokesman Richard Kirkpatrick said by the end of November the agency had 341 positions left to fill.

Applicants must possess a CDL to be considered for temporary snow plow operation work. The agency also offers nonoperator positions such as diesel and construction equipment mechanics, welders and clerks.

“Our hires are varied. Some are folks who drive a truck in the summer hauling asphalt or concrete and want to work in the winter; others are those who want to become full-time employees,” PennDOT spokeswoman Jan Huzvar said. “Others are on their second and third careers and see us as a great place to be employed.”

Kevin Stewart, president of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, said PennDOT’s temporary positions serve as good opportunities for people in the construction industry that may not have year-round employment.

According to Stewart, PennDOT is grappling with the driver shortage that plagues the entire trucking industry. The driver shortage ranked No. 1 on the American Transportation Research Institute’s list of most pressing concerns for the industry, which was released Oct. 23. American Trucking Associations reported that the driver shortage could reach 50,000 by the end of the year, and the shortfall could surpass 174,000 by 2026 if current trends continue.

“I think PennDOT’s experiencing much of what many of our member companies are experiencing with trying to find qualified drivers on a part-time basis to do their winter maintenance activities,” Stewart said. “I think the driver shortage has certainly impacted them much like it has impacted us as an industry.”

PennDOT budgeted $220 million to keep more than 96,000 snow-lane miles of roadway clear of ice and snow over the winter.

I think PennDOT’s experiencing much of what many of our member companies are experiencing with trying to find qualified drivers on a part-time basis to do their winter maintenance activities.

Kevin Stewart, president of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association

According to Kirkpatrick, a snow-lane is calculated by the miles of road multiplied by the number of lanes, meaning a one-mile section of a four-lane roadway would equal four snow-lane miles. Kirkpatrick said snowfall ranges to as high as 83 inches on average per winter, depending on the area of the state.

Kirkpatrick said PennDOT will meet winter service needs regardless of whether the agency can fill the remaining 341 positions. Huzvar said that PennDOT will extend work hours and routes to ensure that all routes are covered. PennDOT prioritizes which routes need to be treated first in the event of inclement weather. Huzvar said that lower-traffic routes are addressed after busy corridors.

“When winter weather hits, PennDOT’s primary focus is on interstates and expressways, and equipment may be redirected to those routes during significant winter events,” Kirkpatrick said. “The more traffic a roadway has, the more attention it will receive from plows, so motorists may find deeper accumulations on less-traveled routes and should adjust their driving for those conditions.”

PennDOT recently released a new tool on the agency’s 511PA website showing a color-coded map of when each of the nearly 40,000 miles of state-maintained roadway was last plowed. Data for the map is collected through PennDOT’s Automated Vehicle Location technology, which uses units in each of the department-owned and rented plow trucks to send a cellular signal showing truck locations. The map is available through a smartphone app, and the agency also sends alerts over Twitter.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced the 511PA platform in October.

“Public safety is our principal mission, which drives our team’s preparation for the winter season,” Wolf said in a press release. “Not only are PennDOT’s staff, equipment and materials ready to go, but we also have yet another tool for the public to make winter travel decisions.”