DUPONT -- Winter will be here before we know it and perhaps there's no group more aware of that than PennDOT's winter maintenance team.
PennDOT says it is facing a shortage of workers like it's never seen before.
PennDOT says the entire state is facing a shortage of plow drivers and mechanics for the winter season. Counties here in the northeast have about half of the help they will need once the snow starts falling.
PennDOT's shed in Dupont got a final salt delivery before winter hits but a message board by the road suggests PennDOT is not as prepared as it would like. The roadside tactic to attract winter employees hasn't worked yet. PennDOT says the counties in the northeast have about half of the help it will need.
That need is already being felt at one of PennDOT's maintenance garages in Clarks Summit.
"This year we're going into it, so far, three mechanics short," said PennDOT mechanic supervisor Patrick O'Dell. "We have one starting luckily on Monday. We have two mechanic positions to fill and we're getting the trucks out, but it's a struggle to get them out in a timely fashion as we'd like to."
O'Dell says there are no more applicants to draw from. The pool has really dried up over the past decade.
"There's a lot more technology you have to learn, it's not just a set of wrenches and fixing what's wrong. You have to figure out what's wrong, and you know, you need a lot of it skills with it, too, to go into it."
If these guys in the garage are short-staffed, it will take longer for plow drivers including Walter Knecht to get the plows they need to clear the roads.
Making matters worse, PennDOT's short on temporary plow drivers, too. Knecht thinks pay is one of the biggest drawbacks.
"Well, with the private contractors and everything, they get paid more money. But, with this job you have more stability, you don't have to worry about, 'am I going to be working here or working there?' Long-term benefits are better here," said Knecht.
Ready or not, PennDOT plow drivers are already out doing practice routes preparing for our first snow storm.
They are still taking applicants and anyone interested can get more information at the state's employment website.