FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Plow driver Blaine Newhook isn’t surprised he’s in high demand. He said the cost of doing business is driving a lot of his competition away.
“I think there’s a generational thing of people leaving [the plow industry] due to the cost of everything,” Newhook said.
Newhook owns Newhook Contracting in Foxboro. He said the overhead cost for vehicles, equipment and insurance every winter can be tens of thousands of dollars.
“Equipment such as this, it looks great and it’s shiny, but it does come at a price and you have to support that,” Newhook said.
The shortage is impacting towns and cities struggling to find help. Some towns like Needham even used roadside signs last month to advertise the need for plow drivers.
“I think it’s difficult to get drivers because they’re so in demand,” Plymouth’s Town Manager Melissa Arrighi said.
Arrighi said Plymouth recently increased its rates just to compete with other towns and cities.
“We had trouble last year too. We had to go up on our prices last year to try to attract people last year. I don’t think that’s pandemic-related,” Arrighi said.
Chelmsford Town Manager Paul Cohen said fewer people want to take on the brutal hours, the wear and tear to their vehicle, and the expensive insurance policy required to plow snow.
“Even some of the employees don’t want to work the overtime and odd hours,” Cohen said. “That’s what makes it challenging because you could get called in at 3 in the morning and you really don’t have too much advance notice.”
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“A lot of the workers today don’t want to put in those type of hours,” Cohen added.
Conor Baldwin, the chief financial officer in Lowell, said his city has struggled to find drivers too.
“I would think it would be the opposite because you think maybe this is a way, if somebody maybe lost their job during the year, you can supplement some of that annual income, but we haven’t seen it,” Baldwin said.
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Winter driving tips from MassDOT:
- Clear snow and ice from all windows and lights, even the hood and roof, before driving, (start with the tailpipe).
- Leave plenty of room for stopping
- Remember that the posted speed limits are for dry pavement.
- Use brakes carefully. Brake early. Brake correctly. It takes more time and distance to stop in adverse conditions.
- Bridge decks freeze first. Due to the difference in the exposure to air, the surface condition can be worse on a bridge than on the approach road.
- Exit ramps are an even greater challenge during the winter since they may have received less anti-icing material than the main line.
- Leave room for maintenance vehicles and plows – stay back at least 200 feet and don’t pass on the right.
- Seat belts should be worn at all times – it’s the law.
- Most importantly please remember to slow down.
Additional snow content: