Don’t crowd the plow: Crashes involving snowplows up 475% in Ohio

Around 46 crashes involving snowplows were reported in Ohio last winter

Drivers in Ohio are being asked to pay extra attention when out on snow-covered roads this winter after reports of crashes involving snowplows skyrocketed last year.

There were eight crashes involving snowplow the Buckeye State during the 2019-2020 winter season, and this past year those reports jumped to about 46.

So, what's behind the dramatic increase?

"I wish I had an answer for you," said Matt Bruning, of the Ohio Department of Transportation. "Other than we got more snow during the last winter than we did in previous years. Our trucks were out on the roads a lot more."

In fact, Bruning said, snowplows in Ohio drove for a combined 9.1 million miles last winter. 

"We saw a lot of people speeding and going fast, so that could have been a contributing factor," he said. "We're hoping to not repeat that this winter. We're asking drivers to pay extra attention and give our crews plenty of room to get the job done so that they can go home safe, and you can go home safe as well."

Bruning said every truck has a dedicated route when clearing roads of snow and ice, so if one of those trucks has been taken out of service because it was hit or involved in a crash, other trucks need to extend their routes to compensate.

"So that will have a ripple effect, and it will take us longer to get those roads clear," he said. 

It also means more money is needed to repair any snowplows when they are involved in a crash and are taken out of service.

"Many times, we're able to go after the insurance company of the person who hit us, so the taxpayers don't have to bear that cost," Bruning said. "But certainly there's a cost in time and a cost in manpower, and I'm sure Ohio is similar to other states where we're dealing with a shortage of drivers."

The shortage of snowplow drivers is a national issue. In some places, like Chelmsford, Massachusetts, extra money is being offered as a way to get more plow drivers out on the roads this winter.

Bruning said snowplow drivers to get extra training to acclimate themselves with the large trucks.

"During the summer, these trucks are used for other purposes. We convert them to plow trucks in the wintertime," he said. "But we also add an extra 500 seasonable positions, and these are maybe people who don't work for us during the summertime. They come in to supplement our full-time crews during the winter to help out with the snow and ice."

So, Bruning said, getting them the extra training, so the drivers know what to expect behind the wheel is very important.