CLEVELAND (WJW) — The salt is in the barn. The plows are ready — and so are the drivers.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is short on drivers but will have the highways and roadways covered across Northeast Ohio as the first shovel-able snowfall hits Cuyahoga County.

But winter is very long.

People call out sick or change jobs, and the industry-wide shortage of qualified heavy plow drivers has upped the ante in the competition for seasonal and even full-time workers.

But the state has upped the ante as well.

“If you join ODOT by Dec. 1, we are giving an incentive of $2,500 for you to stay on with us all winter long,” said ODOT Spokesman Brent Kovacs. “So from Dec. 1 until late May, if you join us for those months, there is a $2,500 bonus, in addition to your hourly wage.”

The bonus would be paid in two installments: one in January the other at the end of the season in May.

Kovacs said it’s about keeping good people on the job statewide, and this incentive helps the state keep up with the competition from municipalities, counties and other businesses that need class A and B drivers with their commercial driver’s license.

He said everyone is ready to go, but the department can always use more.

“We have three pools that we can draw from. … We have our full-time drivers, our seasonal drivers and we have an auxiliary list of drivers — and those may be engineer’s office workers that may have their CDLs  but could come out and help us work,” Kovacs said

Over on the Ohio Turnpike, there’s a full staff of 174 drivers at all eight maintenance areas across the 240-mile stretch of road from the Pennsylvania to the Indiana border.

The Ohio Turnpike Commission said all of its drivers are full-time staff who drive trucks for them all year round. But even though they’re well-prepared, they still could use a few more people.

“Just like the rest of the industry, we’re not immune to the labor shortages they’re experiencing right now, especially when it comes to class A CDL, which our plow operators have to hold to operate the equipment,” said turnpike Maintenance Engineer Bryan Emery. “It is definitely something we have to look at. We even have a few openings.”

Both the commission and ODOT have programs that will pay for training to obtain a class A CDL.

In the meantime, Emery said the staff and the gear are ready to go, no matter what the weather brings this winter.

“We run our snow and ice trucks through that 136-point inspection well in advance of the first snowfall of the year, which has pretty much been this week. We’re ready to go. Our equipment’s in the best possible condition it can be,” Emery said.

  • For more information about Ohio Turnpike Commission jobs, click here.
  • For more information about ODOT jobs, click here.