MoDOT staffing problems stem from low wages and a shortage of skilled workers

After Congress passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure funding bill over the weekend, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, “There will be work immediately, and for years to come.”

This means Missouri has more road and bridgework, but the Missouri Department of Transportation is having difficulty staffing the work.

Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), crews work on I-70 Rocheport bridge. (2019 file photo courtesy of MoDOT).

“We’ve been experiencing pretty high turnover at MoDOT for several years now. It all starts with less experience and revolving people. But we’re just at a point where our salaries are not anywhere close to the market rate. And we’re just not able to attract even applicants to take our jobs,” Hassinger told Missourinet.

“We do the design and the coordination and the inspection of construction and so we have a lot of engineers and technicians and those folks are in very high demand and we are way behind the market and what we offer for those positions,” he said.

MoDOT maintenance workers with a CDL start at $15.25. Walmart and Amazon pay $21 or more.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013, the median hourly pay for heavy- and tractor-trailer truck drivers is $22.66.

Hassinger says that local municipalities often pay more than the state. He believes that the Missouri Legislature could help the agency compete.

“The money comes to MoDOT and is in the Highway Trust Fund and the State Road Fund. It’s not that we have to have more money, the money is there, it’s dedicated to that purpose. We then have a conversation about how to make sure that the appropriate amount is available for spending it on the things that are asking for more money. It’s all there.”

According to Hassinger, highway worker demand is a national problem.

“We see the outcome of that as not having as many contractors bidding on our work and having the workforces that are going to be necessary. And we’re really concerned about that as we have a discussion going on nationwide about increasing infrastructure investments,” he said.

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