ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - Some St. Louis drivers probably did a double take Wednesday morning when they saw caravans of snow plows rolling down the road.
It was part of an statewide drill MoDOT does to every fall to get its drivers warmed up for winter, but this year, the exercise is more important than ever because this year roughly 20 percent of MoDOT's snow plow drivers will be sitting behind the wheel for the first time, drafted into service from other MoDOT jobs because the department has been cutting hundreds of positions to save money.
"The reality of our world today is we really have to be a lot more flexible with what people do to be successful," said MoDOT District Engineer Ed Hassinger.
Hassinger says MoDOT`s new drivers are for the most part are already field employees whose job description has always included the possibility of being picked to plow, though many never thought the day would come.
"We need them and when it snows our chief responsibility is to plow so we are spending a lot of time making sure everybody is ready to do that this winter," Hassinger said.
Along with having to pass the Commercial Drivers License test and a drug test, the new plow drivers have been getting between 40 to 80 hours of training, and will not be allowed to solo until after riding shotgun in one snow storm, and then driving with an experienced operator at their side in second storm.
"I think at MoDOT when you are walking into winter everybody is a little bit nervous going into the first snow storm and I think that is a good thing," Hassinger said. "I think it keeps everybody`s radar up and keeps us on our toes and everybody has got some apprehension going into a first snow storm and that is a good thing."
Of the pool of 550 plow drivers in the St. Louis area, 120 will be brand new.
In all, MoDOT is reducing its workforce by about 200 positions locally and 1200 statewide, mostly through attrition.