Ahead of winter, MassDOT says it has fewer snow plow contractors than last year

WRENTHAM, Mass. — Winter is approaching fast and local communities across the state are once again scrambling to find enough plow drivers to get through the season.

“We’re in the same situation as previous years. We can’t find a sufficient number of snow plow contractors,” said Chelmsford Town Manager Paul Cohen.

Towns and cities across Massachusetts have been dealing with a chronic shortage of plow drivers for years. Local officials say there are many reasons for the dwindling numbers, including bad hours, unpredictable and mild winters, and pricey insurance premiums.

A MassDOT spokesperson said the agency currently has about 4 percent less outside vendor equipment signed up from last year, despite increasing rates by an average of 4 percent.

“Some of the reasons vendor participation has dropped include the lower than average snowfall over the last several years and lack of [Commercial Driver’s License] drivers,” the spokesperson said.

Like a lot of communities, Chelmsford has had to increase its rates to compete with neighboring communities and private businesses. In addition to a $95-per-hour rate, Cohen said Chelmsford also offers a $1,000 incentive bonus, $500 of which is paid upfront.

“Again, the same number of roads have to be plowed, but you’ve got fewer and fewer contractors and employees out there doing the work,” Cohen said. “If you get behind in a storm with a commute, it’s a prescription for disaster in terms of safety on the roads.”

Michele Monteiro, owner of Landscape Services in Bellingham, says a combination of mild winters and rising insurance costs have pushed a lot of drivers out of the business.

“The past two winters we haven’t seen almost any accumulation,” Monteiro said. “You can’t count on it. The bills keep coming in every month and this is something you can’t count on. The insurance rates keep going up and there’s no guarantee it’s going to snow.”

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