Area public works departments said they handled the first snow of the season with little problem Sunday night and early Monday morning, but there is a concern about a lack of plow drivers for big storms.
Public works officials said they have been having trouble hiring enough plowing contractors in recent years and the shortage seems to be throughout the area.
The contractors are in addition to the staff at DPWs and other municipal departments that also do plowing.
Public works officials spoke while preparing for additional snowfall that was forecast for Monday night into Tuesday morning.
Attleboro public works Superintendent Mike Tyler said he has about 55 contractors willing to plow for the city, but Attleboro usually has more than 60.
The city has taken out an ad in The Sun Chronicle seeking applications and a message board near the intersection of Park and Pleasant streets is spreading the word.
Tyler said the city recently raised the rate in pay for plowing by $10 an hour to bring it in line with surrounding communities.
Drivers with one-ton trucks will be paid $85 an hour, with the rate increasing with the size of the truck. A contractor with 10-wheel truck will be paid $130 an hour.
North Attleboro public works director Mark Hallowell told a similar story to Tyler’s. He said he needs about three or four more contractors with one-ton and six-wheel trucks. North Attleboro has also raised the rates it pays contractors, he said.
It is the same situation in Mansfield where director Lee Azinheira said he has six or seven fewer contractors than last year. He said the shortage has been building for about 10 years.
It seems older drivers are retiring and younger ones don’t want to plow, he said.
Tyler said he is not sure why there are fewer contractors willing to plow this year, but he suspects it’s a lifestyle issue, with drivers not wanting to work through the night on big storms.
He also said contractors may not want to subject their equipment to the “beating” plowing entails.
Hollowell also said the problem has been building for some time.
“More and more there is a shortage of people who want to do plowing,” he said. “We would definitely like more.”
Azinheira said his department can handle small and medium-sized storms, but ones that dump a lot of snow will be more difficult to handle.
Asked how big a storm would have to be to create a problem, Azinheira said, “I don’t want to find out.”