Hardest Job in Montana? MDT Snowplow Drivers Get My Vote
The reasons why Montana snowplow drivers have one of the most difficult jobs in the state make up a very long list. Not only does it take a special kind of person to do that job well, there are other factors this year making it even harder.
People love to complain about road conditions in Montana. It's as if we're entitled to perfectly plowed, melted, and sanded roads even in the worst weather conditions. Cringe-worthy comments in online groups, highlight not just the problems - but that Montana can't seem to FIX the problems related to highway snow removal.
The call for applicants doesn't really do the job justice. It's incredibly demanding work with unpredictable schedules. This is just a small portion of the job description for an MDT snowplow driver:
MDT is looking for a driver with heavy equipment operation experience for winter road maintenance. This includes snow removal, cleaning the right of way, fixing guardrail, repairing fences, signs, and luminaires, traffic control and salt brine production.
40 hours per week depending on weather and the needs of the section. Scheduled shifts range from 4am-11:30pm.
Must be available for emergency weather conditions and be able to work on weekends and holidays as needed.
Season typically begins mid-November and ends in March, depending on weather.
Must be able to work in extreme weather conditions and remain focused and seated for extended periods of time. Must be able to perform moderate physical activity in lifting, carrying, and/or operating the tools and equipment.
Let's be clear: The plow drivers that work for the State bust their ass. I'm lucky to call a couple of them friends, even though I don't get to see them much in the winter. If you know one of the drivers, you too know how demanding their job is. Crazy hours, dangerous work, totally weather dependent, and at Mother Nature's beckon call.
You've seen the complaints online - lots of grumbling with little in the way of solutions. Would higher pay for drivers attract more applicants? That's certainly possible but there's more to it than that. Montana is a huge state with thousands of miles of highway that need to be cleared. Being a plow driver near a larger city is logistically very different than being based in Liberty, Sheridan, Mineral, or Carter counties.
- "But instead of blaming the plow drivers, maybe write the governor and ask why they can’t pay a livable wage in the places with increased cost of living."
- "If you want safe roads for all in MT write your government officials and ask them to address this issue."
- "The reason why there is such a shortage state wide is wages, and the cost of living in the whole state. It’s a good job in most of eastern parts, but when someone retires or they leave for higher wages, you can’t afford a house or even find one."
- "Might be a good idea to vote in people who care about state workers, especially those with boots on the ground."
- "No one wants to work anymore for a reasonable wage, they all want to make 40 an hour and not do anything." (This, I doubt very seriously but you'll always see these folks commenting...)
- "We've had 8 plows taken out already and winter has just started. We simply cannot afford this outrageous growth."
- "I like that they really added some serious lighting to the plows recently. They are way more visible now, hopefully that keeps them from getting hit so much."
So, what are some viable solutions to the driver shortage? What incentives could be offered in addition to better pay? The housing crunch across Montana affect everyone, State workers included. Would housing subsidies work? Paid apprenticeships? What would you suggest?