MICHIGAN — Although we still have autumn to get through, winter is on the horizon. And with winter, comes slippery Michigan roads. Those roads are something local road commissions start preparing for months in advance - but this year although the road commission are doing their best, not everything is going exactly according to plan.
Local road commissions begin prepping for winter weather in the summer months, and what they're seeing is already raising concern.
"The issue that we are personally seeing is a lot of retirement," Muskegon County Road Commission maintenance superintendent, Andrew Nichols said.
The Muskegon County Road Commission hires seasonal drivers months before the first snowfall, drivers that cone back year after year. Except this year, the return rate is much lower all across the state.
"Some of my counterparts on the east side of the state I know are struggling with getting drivers," Kent County Road Commission director of operations Jerry Byrne said.
Byrne says if road commissions don't have enough drivers, your roads may take longer to get to. That's why all the road commissions plan on working together this season to help each other out.
"We're going to go wherever needed, just like the power companies do when there are situations that require that," Byrne said.
However, a shortage of drivers isn't the main concern as it's more manageable. What's less manageable is the spread of COVID-19.
"Our biggest hope is like everybody is not being affected by COVID," Byrne said.
If the virus spreads among a road commission team, it can take out the entire road crew for weeks - causing major delays.
Another issue heading into winter? Not a salt shortage, but yet another supply shortage in a pandemic world - machine parts and the microchips that have caused dealerships to not have enough cars.
"Just like all of the other new vehicles and all the chips, these trucks have multiple chips in them. And we need those, we need those trucks running," Byrne said.
A simple breakdown can take out an entire plow without those parts to fix, making this winter season one of the more stressful ones for our snow plow drivers before the season has even begun.
Byrne also says those shortages could possibly affect winter tires, and encourages the community to get those tires sooner rather than later.
The Muskegon County Road Commission is actively hiring staff and is offering competitive wages. You can pick up an application at their offices located at 7700 E Apple Avenue or visit their website to apply.