January 29, 2020
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Maine towns say they don’t have enough snowplow drivers

Eesha Pendharkar | BDN
Eesha Pendharkar | BDN
Heavy Equipment Operator Chris Nile has been plowing roads on the west side of Bangor since 3:30 a.m. after a winter storm hit the city on Tuesday.

This week, most of Maine saw its first significant amount of snow for the 2019-2020 winter season.

But some public works officials in municipalities across the state say they’re still working on filling positions for their department.

“It’s hard to find people,” Bath Public Works Director Lee Leiner said. “[Some of our workers] are going to be retiring in the next 4, 5, 6 years…. So we’re starting to see sort of that generational turnover.”

Public works officials in Augusta and Arundel agree with Leiner, saying they have multiple open positions for snowplow drivers.

Maine’s Department of Transportation went through a similar hiring drought last year, according to officials.

“We were having a difficult time obtaining and keeping drivers,” Maine DOT Regional Manager Robert McFerren said.

He says that they improved their numbers by increasing the wage for drivers in his district by $3.50 an hour.

“With the stipend, we had been receiving a lot more applications,” McFerren said. “So we have been able to fill more positions.”

DOT leaders say they also incentivized their training program, and tried to limit the number of contracted drivers from other businesses.

This summer, the DOT had 43 contracted drivers on call. By the end of this year, McFerren says that number will cut by more than half.

“After our next round of hiring, we will only need 15 additional contracted drivers,” McFerren said. “We still have five open positions here in Scarborough, but we have people applying and interviewing for those positions.”

He says regardless of the number of workers, every public works department across the state will continue to work to help their communities.

“That’s why we’re in this business,” McFerren said. “We will always provide safe traveling for the public, but [less drivers] comes at a cost.”

Watch: Take a trip inside a Bangor plow truck


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