January 13, 2017

Windham avoids snow plow drivers’ shortage By Stephen Signor

While the Maine Department of Transportation’s shortage of plow truck drivers is making headlines, the Town of Windham is holding its own and flying under the radar. The comparison may be one sided on many levels, but the logistics are the same and not without its own potential barriers. Yet, these potential obstacles have eluded public transportation director Doug Fortier.

“Right now we are fully staffed having hired a new driver in December and one more just recently,” shared Fortier. With a higher starting hourly wage of $16.92 per hour compared to MDOT’s $13.50 an hour, snow plow drivers of course are motivated to apply and encouraged to remain.

“Most of the crew members have been here five or six years and there is one who is in his 36th year,” added Fortier, who is in his 13th budget year with the town.

However, maintaining drivers goes a lot deeper than offering a high wage. It is a concerted effort that relies upon the involvement of the towns’ government structure.  Driver frustration from the lack of materials to perform their duties can certainly be a deterrent.  

“We have a very supportive town council and manager that understand the logistics associated with running a smooth operation along with the importance of providing continuous financial support through the Energy and Weather Emergency Fund,” said Fortier. It’s this kind of communication that eventually trickles down to the driver level making their job a little less challenging.

What also attributes to maintaining and acquiring drivers is that a CDL (Commercial Driving License) is not required for vehicles weighing less than 24,000 pounds. Unlike the MDOT, a portion of the plowing is done on public easement roads and parking lots so this can be accomplished with smaller trucks where no CDL is required.

But all said and done, Fortier still owes the town’s success at keeping the winter roads as safe as possible, during times that can often be extremely challenging, to his reliable and fully staffed team of experienced and dedicated drivers. With due accolades he boasted, “ In the end it is the drivers that make the real difference. I may be the director sitting behind the desk but these guys are always out there no matter what.”

When asked if there was an established pool of back-up drivers in the event of an unseen shortage, Fortier laughed and replied, “Yes. Me. We have no bench, everyone is on the field.”

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