Snow has been known to fall in Missouri as early as October.
How early? According to the Missouri Climate Center at the University of Missouri School of Agriculture, 11.5 inches of snow fell Oct. 27, 1913, in Rolla.
With that in mind, the Missouri Department of Transportation and local public works departments are getting ready for the winter road-clearing duties.
The arrival of snow and road-clearing duties have always presented staffing challenges, public works officials said. But finding people to fill certain spots this year has been more of a challenge due to the current job market.
"We are still hiring full-time maintenance positions and seasonal emergency maintenance equipment operator positions across the state," said Matt Hiebert, Missouri Department of Transportation assistant director.
MoDOT qualifications include applicants needing to be at least 18 years old, successfully complete a criminal background check (a misdemeanor or felony conviction is not an automatic restriction to employment), and have a commercial driver's license (CDL).
A passing grade on the written portion of the commercial driver's license (CDL) exam is required prior to hire date. The applicant must pass the driving portion of the CDL exam with tanker endorsement, no air brake restrictions (Class B).
If you don't already have a commercial driver's license (CDL), MoDOT will provide training to help you obtain one.
When asked if he thought they might need to make adjustments to how they clear roads if there are staff shortages, Hiebert said, "Our maintenance facilities make a plan and adjust for every snow event, based on our plowing priorities, the variables in the forecast and factoring in available staffing."
The top priority for MoDOT in a snowstorm is clearing all interstates and higher volume highways.
The objective is to have all lanes on these "snow" routes restored to near normal conditions as soon as possible after the end of the storm. To achieve this objective, plowing and/or application of snow and ice control treatments on these routes will be in effect 24 hours per day throughout the storm until this objective is achieved.
When asked if Central Missouri is better or worse than other parts of the state for staffing shortages, Hiebert said, "Staffing vacancies in areas across the state are very fluid as we go through the hiring process. Our goal is to fill all of our open positions in order to provide the best service to Missouri citizens."
Cole County road crews are fully staffed, officials said.
"We are fully staffed and don't foresee any issues with workforce during the winter operations," said Eric Landwehr, Cole County public works director. "We recently filled a vacancy, and it was a little challenging due to the lack of applications, but we were able to hire this person. My gut feeling is hiring will continue to get more difficult due to more competition."
As far as snowplow drivers, Landwehr said, they hire part-time truck drivers for additional help.
"We keep a list of about 10 people that we can call in to run a plow overnight," Landwehr said. "These are typically guys that drive a truck for their normal job and would not be working due to the snow. We also have a handful of full-time staff that can sub for someone if they are out sick or out of town."
For Jefferson City streets, seasonal staffing is less of an issue since the city relies on its regular full-time staff for road-clearing duties.
"MoDOT hires temp help through the winter to help in their efforts, and we use only our regular full-time staff," said Britt Smith, Jefferson City operations director. "So as long as we have positions filled we are in good shape."
Smith said they do currently have a couple of openings due to staff turnover.
"We are working to get those positions backfilled, but we are seeing a steep decline in the number of applications for the positions over previous years," Smith said.