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Snowplow driver shortage expected to continue to affect Whatcom County’s snow removal response

City of Ferndale snowplow at Washington Street and Vista Drive (February 6, 2017). Photo: Whatcom News

WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. — Whatcom County Public Works (WCPW) department officials announced today, Wednesday, November 9th, that they are “facing significant staffing shortages for weather response operations – specifically, a shortage of employees who are licensed, qualified, and experienced in operating snow plows.”

The shortage is a continuation of the challenges in recruiting and training drivers with a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) faced by all employers over recent years.

Last year in October WCPW announced, “Normally the department would have 52 trained CDL drivers for emergency work – including snow plow operations. Right now there are only 27 employees with sufficient training and licenses.” In today’s announcement, those numbers were 54 drivers needed with 40 licensed and trained.

Several factors have contributed to this shortage including the booming construction economy placing a premium on equipment operator jobs, experienced workers retiring, recent FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) regulation changes that impacted County processes and ability to acquire CDL licensing, and the pandemic limiting CDL training opportunities for staff. 

Whatcom County Public Works is continuing to hire Road Maintenance Workers this fall. However, it takes an average of six months for someone to get a CDL license if they don’t arrive with one. Even after someone gets a CDL, we thoroughly prepare and train our crews before they operate on public roadways. The safety of our employees and the public must always be our highest priority.  Whatcom County Public Works (November 9, 2022)

Residents are asked to prepare and make contingencies due to fewer plows and other equipment on the roads during extended snowstorms. It will likely also take longer for crews to get to secondary roads.

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