ALBANY — Even the state is feeling the squeeze of a tight labor market, in places.
Low unemployment and a finite number of people holding commercial driver’s licenses has led the state Department of Transportation to expand its campaign to hire truck drivers, heavy equipment operators and mechanics as it prepares for snow-plowing season.
After posting signs at interstate rest areas and DOT facilities in 2018, the agency took the next step this week and sent out a media blast calling for 500 seasonal employees, some of whom will get a chance to stay on as permanent employees when presidential campaign signs replace snow drifts, come spring 2020.
“We’re trying to get the word out,” DOT spokesman Bryan Viggiani said. “We need workers that are both permanent and seasonal.”
The greatest need is for people who hold a Class A or B commercial driver’s license, he said. Experience operating a plow or driving the dump truck the plow is attached to is not necessary — DOT will provide the training.
There are some requirements: Candidates must pass a physical exam and drug test, their licenses must have no violations, they must be willing to work a 24-hour shift in the worst storms, and they have to learn to operate the dump truck within two weeks.
The Civil Service Employees Association, the union that represents many permanent and some seasonal DOT employees, supports and collaborates in recruitment efforts.
A CSEA spokesman said an aging workforce and a shortage of licensed drivers is part of the problem, compensation less so. The wages are sometimes better in the private sector, he explained, but the benefits are usually better for state employees.
Annualized starting pay for DOT trainees is in the low to mid $30,000s, plus overtime and footwear allowance. It varies by county, and is higher in regions with a higher cost of living.
Federal data indicate the average annual salary for heavy truck operators in the Capital Region is $35,720 early in their careers and $51,720 with experience.
Viggiani said many DOT highway maintenance workers see value in the job beyond money, especially when they’re making the roads passable again in an emergency.
“For a lot of folks it’s a calling, it’s public service,” he said. “Everyone uses the road, our folks realize that.”
DOT is seeking to hire 65 people in the Capital Region and 36 in the Mohawk Valley region. Additional information is available at https://www.dot.ny.gov/jobs/perm_positions/highway-maintenance-worker.