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Montana plow operators keep roads clear, even during pandemic

Posted at 2:45 PM, Apr 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-13 16:45:43-04

While the majority of the country sits at home, Mother Nature was in her office this weekend, which meant that plow drivers for the Montana Department of Transportation had to be too.

As both government employees and essential infrastructure workers, it’s no surprise that the MDT’s drivers are still working amid the Coronavirus Pandemic. There are still a number of safety precautions that the department is taking to keep its workers and the public healthy while also keeping transportation flowing smoothly in the Treasure State.

“Disinfect all our equipment every time someone gets in or gets out of, say, a plow truck,” said MDT Great Falls Maintenance Superintendent Scott Western, when asked what measures his workers were taking to keep themselves healthy. “We are trying to assign one guy to a plow truck so we don’t have multiple people driving that truck, so one guy, one truck. They have been instructed to wipe it down prior to operating it, and then once they’re done at the end of their shift, they’re supposed to wipe down the equipment, steering wheels, controls, door handles. Just trying to limit that exposure.”

As many office workers as possible at the MDT are working remotely from home, but that isn’t an option for the crewmembers who have to be out in the public to get their jobs done. They continued to work on filling potholes and other maintenance issues with roadways across Montana. That was, until April’s first winter storm struck this weekend.

Scott explained that although it may seem like business as usual, it’s hard to call it that. Department workers are still getting their jobs done, whether in their home offices or snow plows, but the lingering effect of living in a global pandemic is evident.

“The traffic volume definitely has decreased from what it normally would be, and from what I’m hearing from the guys this morning that are out plowing, there is substantially less traffic,” Western said. “In a way, it’s making their job easier not having to deal with as much traffic out there, so I think for the most part the public is staying at home as much as they can. Obviously, with the bad roads this morning and the storm, most people that don’t need to be out are probably hunkered down, staying at home.”

If the stay-at-home orders from Governor Steve Bullock weren’t enough to keep people in place for the time being, it appears that the April snowstorm might have done the trick.

While many MDT workers work from home, drivers can still utilize the 5-1-1 road reporting system for travel conditions and other important information that the Montana Department of Transportation may put out during this snow storm or any other time.