Friday, 10 May 2019 12:07

MDOT grappling with plow truck driver shortage

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AUGUSTA (WGME) - The Maine Department of Transportation is struggling to keep plow drivers on staff.

Maine DOT officials said it was a challenging winter having to clear state roads of snow and ice while trying to fill about 50 vacant plow truck driver jobs.


And that was after hiring private contractors and temporary drivers to fill part of the void.


Workers said that job candidates often walk out of the interview when they find out the pay is only $14 an hour.


"The problem we're having in Region 1 and throughout the state is hiring and retention. People are having a hard time looking at a state job that's only going to pay them $14 an hour," said Maine DOT worker Payson Weirs.


Wiers said most towns and cities pay more than that -- and private companies offer up to $25 an hour.


He and the Maine State Employees Union supports a bill that would earmark nearly $13 million in Maine DOT funds over the next two years for toward $2 an hour raises for the department's blue collar employees.


Maine DOT officials, however, oppose the bill.


"We oppose any legislation that earmarks our funding," Deputy Commissioner Nina Fisher said.


Fisher said the problem is not the pay raise but rather telling Maine DOT how to spend its budgeted money.


"Our workers are without question our No. 1 asset and we support anything that could help them. But again, this legislation is earmarking funding," Fisher said.


Maine DOT officials said they already are working on a plan to recruit and retain more plow truck drivers but workers said that unless they offer more competitive wages, they will keep losing them.


"I don't understand why anyone would oppose it," Weirs said.