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Gearing up for winter

COLUMBUS – The leaves are falling, but before long it will be snow. Across the state, Ohio Department of Transportation workers are conducting safety checks on snow plow to ensure it is ready to go when the first flakes fly.

ODOT crews maintain state and U.S. routes outside municipalities and all interstates in Ohio, except the Ohio Turnpike.

"Keeping roads safe takes a great deal of work before, during, and even after snowstorms hit,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “We are grateful for the dedication of our ODOT crews who battle the elements year after year to keep our major roadways open and drivable.”

The agency utilizes nearly 3,000 drivers who often work 12 hour shifts during snow and ice events. While most are full-time drivers, about 500 drivers are hired seasonally.

“Our seasonal workers are vital for helping us clear the roads in a timely manner,” said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks. “Right now, we have job openings for these positions all over the state, and we encourage those who meet the minimum qualifications to consider coming to work with us.”

ODOT also uses auxiliary drivers. These auxiliary drivers are full-time ODOT employees who normally do other tasks and only plow snow when needed.

ODOT’s goal is to have primary routes back up to speed within 2 hours and secondary routes within 4 hours of the end of a snow event. Even with staffing shortfalls, last winter crews hit that goal 99 percent of the time.

“We aim to be the standard of excellence when it comes to winter maintenance. That will never change," Marchbanks said.

While the department continues efforts to recruit plow drivers, nearly 300 mechanics are busy doing 150-point checks from the plow blade to the salt spinner of each of the more than 1,600 trucks in the fleet. These checks are done now so that any repairs can be made before the snow starts flying and the trucks hit the road.

In addition to trucks and manpower, ODOT is ready for this winter with more than 740,000 tons of salt on hand.

Last winter, crews drove 7 million miles using nearly 622,000 tons of salt and almost 18 million gallons of liquid deicers.

A total of 61 plow trucks were struck last winter, up from 42 the previous winter. When these crashes occur, it takes important snow-fighting equipment off the road, forcing other plows in the area to extend their routes. It is very important that drivers give crews plenty of room to work.