NORTH PROVIDENCE – Wanting to get out ahead of potential problems related to staffing and ongoing plow driver shortages, the town is now considering increasing the hourly pay rate for work this winter.
Mayor Charles Lombardi was set to discuss the issue with personnel on Tuesday, and “Snow plow driver rates” are on the agenda for a Nov. 17 Purchasing Board meeting.
Lombardi said he’s made the point that the town has plenty of workable plow trucks, but needs to make sure there are enough people in the trucks to keep all-important plowing operations moving smoothly during snowstorms.
“We need to always be prepared for the worst,” he said.
Last year’s plowing operations, when there was little snow, had adequate coverage, but a couple of maintenance workers were regularly jumping in to help out, said the mayor. The good thing about the town’s new rebuilt trucks is is that they push 11 feet of snow instead of eight, meaning that in a neighborhood such as Lees Plat, the work likely gets done three hours earlier than before.
A town application for snow plow operators prior to last winter had hourly rates at between $70 and $170, depending on the size of the truck, including labor, fuel, equipment and maintenance.
The mayor wasn’t discussing rates this week, but he said he feels it’s important not to pay outside drivers more than town employees to do the actual work.
Town employees currently receive about $20 per hour for plowing work, according to Lombardi. He previously said that the town makes trucks available to outside operators, but they typically want to use their own vehicles because of the higher hourly pay rates.
Municipal and state governments have continued to prioritize ways to attract plow drivers despite the increasing difficulty of doing so. The Breeze reported two years ago on how increased insurance rates due in part to more slip-and-fall injury claims was leading more people to get out of the plowing business.
Lombardi said for the 2019 story on the plow operator shortage that the town was short at least six people during the first storm of the season that year due to both overall driver shortages and local illnesses and surgeries.
He said then that the future of municipal snow-clearing operations will either “cost more money or take a little longer to clean the roads.”