KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Transportation is preparing for a long and frigid winter across the state.

Each fall, the department holds a winter weather drill to see if it needs to make any changes before the first snowflakes start coming down.

This year MoDOT said it is dealing with high turnover rates and many positions are still unfilled, including snow plow drivers.

“We’re facing a critical shortage of qualified plow operators as we go into the winter season,” Becky Allmeroth, MoDOT chief safety and operations officer, said. “This drill gives MoDOT the opportunity to train our new snowplow operators on their designated routes so they are aware of curbs and raised islands that might be hidden when the snow or ice starts to fall.”

MoDOT said it still needs to fill 30% of its openings to be able to plow roads efficiently across the state this winter. If those positions aren’t filled, it will take crews much longer to clear highways during a storm, including in Kansas City.

“If a widespread winter storm lasts more than one 12-hour shift, we will not have enough employees to fill all the trucks on the second shift and therefore it will take longer to clear the roads. Delays could be significant and will impact all regions of the state,” Patrick McKenna, MoDOT director, said.

Drivers will run routes and MoDOT will also test its communications systems during the drill.

MoDOT says it spent more than $53 million on winter operations last year and used over 151,000 tons of salt; 2.4 million gallons of salt brine; and 454,000 gallons of beet juice.