Metro Detroit road crews hiring, ready for snow

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

As the winter season approaches, road maintenance crews throughout Metro Detroit say they are ready to handle ice and snow on the roads.

They’re prepping the trucks and hiring seasonal drivers to help keep the roads driveable.

“We’re ready,” said Robert Hoepfner, director of Macomb County Roads which maintains 1,800 miles of road. “I think everybody should be assured we’re ready.”

Motorists may have smooth travels on the roads for the first part of winter based on information released Monday in the National Weather Service’s winter season outlook.

From December to mid-January, temperatures will be milder and less than average snowfall is expected, said Jordan Dale, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in White Lake Township.

Dale said as we move into February, and potentially into March, temperatures will be average and snowfall will have a normal pattern.

“I think the idea is that we should have closer to normal snowfall once you add up the first half and second halves of winter,” Dale said. “We aren’t expecting anything anomalously high or low for the region.”

Overall, this winter is expected to be colder and snowier than last year, Dale said.

Tracking the weather is an hourly task for the road commissions.

“We’re just prepared for the worst 24/7,” said Craig Bryson, spokesman for the Road Commission for Oakland County. “We’re prepared for the worst and hope for the best. We respond to whatever Mother Nature brings us.”

A number of agencies are still looking for seasonal drivers to help handle snow removal.

The city of Detroit needs an additional 15 drivers to meet its goal of 153. Applicants should already possess a commercial driver’s license, said Ron Brundidge, the director of the Department of Public Works in Detroit.

Macomb County is also seeking temporary drivers, Hoepfner said. Despite the $21-an-hour pay it can be tough to fill the positions because the economy has improved, he added.

“It’s hard to get people on a temporary basis to fill in for three months,” he said. “We get some. Half a dozen, 10.”

In addition to a commercial driver’s license, new drivers in Macomb County must undergo a week of training, Hoepfner said.

“We bring them in and pay them,” he said. “We teach them to plow snow for a week. A lot of it is on the job. The best training they can have is to get out there and plow.”

Although Wayne County is fully staffed to cover its 99 snow plow routes, its Roads Division in the Department of Public Services is looking to add full-time, permanent hires, said William Bantom, the department’s director.

Job fairs for Wayne County are set for 4-6 p.m. Thursday at the Central Maintenance Yard at 29900 Goddard Road and 10- 2 p.m. Friday at the Urban Freeway Yard, 5811 Brush street. For more information, call (888) Road-Crew.

Meanwhile, the city of Detroit and the road commissions in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties all report having ample salt and adequate equipment to clear the roads.

Wayne County has 55,000 tons of salt on hand and the ability to order 100,000 more tons for delivery if needed, Bantom said.

The trucks are loaded with salt at the end of each night during the winter season.

“They’re left in the ready position,” Bantom said. “All (the drivers) have to do is get on the truck and head to their salt route.”

In Oakland County, mechanics worked overtime and sometimes on the weekends to get 115 plow and salt trucks ready by mid-November, Bryson said.

“We reached that goal,” he said.

The city of Detroit has 29 new trucks to replace many that were more than 10 years old, Brundidge said. That brings the total fleet to 73 trucks to cover 1,880 miles of residential streets. Each replacement costs $180,000.

“Like any other vehicle, as a salt truck ages it increases the likelihood of it breaking down during the season,” he said.

The trucks with new features are not only easier to operate, but motorists benefit as well.

“What it will do is it’ll clear the streets quicker,” Brundidge said. “The important thing is we want to get out early with reliable equipment and clear the streets so they’re safe for the drivers.”

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