HELENA — With winter approaching, the Montana Department of Transportation is gearing up its snowplows. Montana is the nation's fourth-largest state making the clearing of snow on state roadways no small feat.
“We plow anywhere between 3 and 4 ½ million miles of our roads a year,” said Doug McBroom, the Maintenance Operations Manager for the Montana Department of Transportation.
The MDT has about 600 snowplows statewide.
In the summer, the trucks are used as dump trucks or in other summer maintenance operations. After being fitted with plows, sanding units, and new safety lights they’re ready for the snowy winter months.
“Getting them ready is not really a problem about two weeks ago we started,” McBroom said.
Over the past two years, MDT has struggled to find drivers, but the situation has improved this year.
Some areas still need crew though.
“Statewide we are actually doing okay for our staffing levels, with the exception of one place and that’s really in the Bozeman maintenance area. Right now, we’re seeing a significant vacancy of about 40%,” said McBroom.
In addition to the 600-person full-time staff, they aim to hire 200 more seasonal staff just for the winter.
They are currently in the process of hiring those 200 people and still have openings in most areas.
“You have to be over 18 and then that’s it. We’ll train you. We’ll help you get your commercial driver’s license,” McBroom said.
Also, after multiple incidents of snowplows being struck by other vehicles last season, MDT has added new flashing lights to improve safety on the road.
“We’ve added green lights to our plows to help with visibility during a snowstorm,” McBroom said.
If you do find yourself behind a plow stay at least five car lengths away.
“Give them time. They will pull over and allow you to pass when it is convent for them to do so,” said McBroom.