MoDOT crews coordinate efforts to address staff shortages amid winter weather

A Missouri Department of Transportation plow truck clears ice and snow from Route O during the first winter storm of 2022. MoDOT crews are prepared for the weekend storm expected to bring precipitation across the Show-Me State, despite greater staffing shortages in the wake of the COVID pandemic.

HANNIBAL — Crews with the Missouri Department of Transportation are ready for the coming storm despite greater staffing shortages than in past years.

As the winter storm forecast for the weekend takes shape, MoDOT crew members are prepared once again across the state and in each region to coordinate their efforts, preparing for 12-hour shifts to clear the roadways as efficiently as possible.

MoDOT Area Engineer Brian Untiedt said adaptations are similar to what the agency has done in past years, “except they’re amplified by the bigger staffing shortages.”

The importance of coordination between different teams has been highlighted during the current staffing situation, and Untiedt said the efforts during the first winter storm of 2022 reflected the team approach.

“So, the first storm we had, everything worked good. We had good coordination across the state. It did take us a little bit longer still,” Untiedt said, noting the main goal is to minimize major shortages in any specific area.

Untiedt said the cold weather that followed the icy precipitation of the storm left some material on minor routes until the warm weather helped melt it away. The efforts went faster on the major routes.

“It’s always a process, and every storm is a little bit different,” he said. “That one, we had a lot of sleet and ice with it, and then that cold. It did make it difficult to get off, especially on the minor roads.”

Untiedt said there were several crew members to train during that first storm. He said it was a good opportunity for training, bringing necessary experience going into the coming storm. Coordination remains a key factor to the response efforts — MoDOT has been preparing for coming weather throughout the week with district and statewide calls. Untiedt said the agency is ready for a statewide storm where every region is expected to receive precipitation, and discussion has already begun about shifting some people around to cover the most severe staffing shortages.

The COVID pandemic has caused the staffing situation to be fluid from day to day, and Untiedt said it has required “us to be pretty nimble as far as our planning goes” throughout the state while maintaining good communication.

This week, MoDOT has been getting trucks prepared and coordinating efforts for the coming storm. Untiedt stressed communication with everyone who uses Missouri’s roadways is vital.

Untiedt said it is best to avoid traveling during a winter storm if possible. If someone must travel during the conditions, they should be prepared with a vehicle emergency kit stocked with items including blankets, food, bottled water, an ice scraper, jumper cables and sand or shingles to help provide traction.

Motorists are also reminded to check the MoDOT Traveler Map, which is available at www.modot.org or by calling 888-ASK-MODOT. Untiedt asked everyone to be patient and give plows plenty of space as they are working to make the roads safe for everyone.

“With the shortages, that means we have every available crew member out there in a truck, trying to get this taken care of. But if someone gets a little too close to a truck, that’s a truck that we’re down, for the rest of the storm sometimes, if there’s an incident,” he said.

More information is available by visiting MoDOT’s website at modot.org. The Traveler Map is also available through the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

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