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Patience please: Plow driver shortage amid oncoming winter storm

CHELSEA, Mass. — A potential record-breaking winter storm coupled with a plow driver shortage has officials asking people one thing—be patient.

The salt pile in Chelsea hasn’t been touched much this winter, but that’s about to change. There have been trucks coming in consistently all Friday morning, filling up. But finding the drivers to come to pick up the salt and treat the roads hasn’t been that easy for many communities.

“Oh, everybody’s excited cause we’ll be busy Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday next week when they do the refills,” Manager of Eastern Salt Cornelius Martin said. “It’s our time to shine. We adjust our hours to make sure that everybody has salt when they need it.”

Martine says the busiest day this week was Wednesday. He says most municipalities stocked up early, with about 400 trailers coming in and loading up.

“I think that the people are ahead of the storm in this situation,” said Martin. “I think there was plenty of notice. They started early. I think they’re in good shape.”

But finding the drivers to come to pick up the salt and treat the roads hasn’t been that easy for communities.

Cities and towns started advertising plow driving jobs back in the fall, trying to get ahead of the shortage. But, for example, in Franklin, where there are 220 miles of roads to clear, town officials told Boston 25 News, it’s been a challenge to find drivers. They say they’re down about 20% this year.

“We typically like to have over 100 pieces of equipment, about 35 our own and then 70 plus to assist us out there, but we’re down, and it’s a problem,” said Brutus Cantoreggi, the Franklin Public Works Director. “So we’re trying to reach out, and I think all communities are this way. They’re trying to find plow contractors.”

To attract drivers, Cantoreggi says his department has offered up to $200 an hour for people willing to work this winter season.

“It has helped. These last two years have been better. We’ve tried to be innovative too,” said Cantoreggi. “We’ve had a signing bonus too. So if you sign up early and stay through the winter, we’ll give you a bonus, [and] depending upon what piece of equipment, it’s a couple of thousand dollars.”

There are cities and towns like Worcester that have enough plow drivers. But Worcester city officials told Boston 25 News the bigger issue will be finding time to give the drivers—and their equipment a break—as this storm is expected to last a long time.

For these reasons, they ask people to stay at home—and give drivers the time to clear the roads.

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