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Washington dealing with snowplow driver shortage ahead of potential lowland snow

WSDOT said it is down 177 winter operations staff as the snowy weather begins to really take hold.

SEATTLE — The Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is warning drivers that their holiday commute may be longer and messier because of a snowplow driver shortage.

Washington state, along with 36 other states, is down a significant number of snowplow drivers.

In all, WSDOT told KING 5 it’s down 177 winter operations staff.

The main reason is that workers with commercial driver’s licenses are in extremely high demand.

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WSDOT also lost some employees to the state vaccine mandate, and a high number of workers retired in the last year.

With private companies able to offer higher salaries than state jobs, WSDOT is having trouble filling vacancies.

“There are a lot more jobs than there are people to fill them,” said WSDOT spokesperson Barbara LaBoe.

With the potential for lowland snow in the coming days, WSDOT is asking for patience.

“If it’s only snowing on the pass, we’ve been able to shift our crews up there to focus on that, but if there’s snow in the lowlands, they obviously need to stay there and handle that, as well. So, while we will have crews on the pass, and we will have crews in the lowlands, all of them may just take a little longer to clear some roadways,” she said.

Her advice is to leave early, expect delays and carry chains with you.

You can also check road and pass conditions on WSDOT’s website.

“Our crews, you know, work 24/7 and are out in all kinds of weather, and they’re out there to keep everyone moving safely,” LaBoe said.