(CBS4) — If you’ve wondered where the snow plows are while driving I-70 during a heavy winter storm, with roads building a thick layer of snow, the answer is simple.

The plow drivers are still coming, they’re just covering more road than they normally do, so it takes longer to make a full loop.

(credit: CBS)

John Lorme, CDOT Director of Maintenance and Operations, said in his time working there, he’s never seen this many vacant spots open for hire. There’s a 15% vacancy for positions, when there is normally a 10% rate. He believes the problem is not drastic, but noticeable.

“With the current operating environment, it’s very hard for us and our peers in other states as well and counties to find commercial motor vehicle operators that are willing to come and be snowplow operators,” Lorme told Mountain Newsroom Reporter Spencer Wilson.

“… Because it’s a very demanding job.”

Right now CDOT is looking to fill around 200 full time positions, and 50 temporary positions. Lorme’s team has worked to help incentivize qualified drivers to take on the plow shift, including attendance bonuses (called snow bonuses), housing stipends for places without affordable housing and raising pay.

“This year, we’ve raised starting salary about seven and a half percent, which means that an entry level one year snowplow operator can make about 45,000 a year,” Lorme said.

While they try to staff up, crews are utilizing tow plows, or a plow pulling another plow, to cover more lanes with just one driver. Winged plows also can cover one and a half lanes of traffic, meaning fewer passes to keep things clear.

CDOT is in the process of hiring on 40 additional drivers to offset it’s numbers, but is still looking to bring in more people to staff up.