Plow driver shortage still a problem for Mass. towns and cities

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — David Andrews was behind the wheel of his truck, clearing out a parking lot and coming to the end of a 25-hour shift.

“I love it so I’ll keep doing it,” Andrews said.

Andrews has plowed snow for 15 years, but not everybody loves this kind of work.

With the first big storm behind us, towns and cities across Massachusetts are still looking to hire more plow drivers.

Some communities, like Lowell and Plymouth, have had to raise their rates to compete with other towns and private businesses.

Others, like Needham and Walpole, used large road signs to advertise the need for more drivers.

“We did OK in this first storm, but we’re really hoping we can attract more plow contractors if this storm is a harbinger of things to come,” Needham spokesperson Cyndi Roy Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said there are several reasons for the plow driver shortage:

“First is just the unpredictability that comes with plowing – long hours, late nights, being called in in the middle of the night, cold,” Gonzalez said.

“Second, we have a construction industry that is doing really well right now. A lot of the people who would use their equipment to plow are choosing to leave it on the construction site, with less chance of damaging their equipment,” she said.

“Finally, there is a generational issue. As the old construction guard retires or passes away, they’re leaving the business to a younger generation who is less interested in doing this kind of work,” Gonzalez said.

Lowell Public Works Commissioner Christine Clancy said the city recently hiked its rates by $10 an hour to attract drivers.

“Lowell struggles to find the desired amount of plowing contractors to supplement its own fleet,” Clancy said. “Since this increase, we were able to sign on an additional 40 pieces of equipment.”

Chelmsford Town Manager Paul Cohen said it’s the difficult hours and conditions driving people away.

“You could get called in at three in the morning and you really don’t have too much advance notice. A lot of the workers today don’t want to put in those type of hours,” Cohen said.

Then there’s the expensive insurance premium that can cost drivers thousands of dollars a year.

Andrews said the cost of insurance and the necessary equipment is high, but it can be a profitable investment.

However, every winter is a gamble.

“You never know if you’re going to get a good winter, or not,” Andrews said.

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