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.”
While this means more road and bridgework for Missouri, the Missouri Department of Transportation is having trouble staffing the work it has now. As Missourinet reported recently, the staffing shortage may impact winter storm response.
“We’ve been experiencing pretty high turnover at MoDOT for several years now. You know, I think it starts with revolving people through and less experience. 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.
A starting MoDOT maintenance worker with a CDL starts at $15.25 vs. Walmart or Amazon paying $21 and above. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay last year for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers was $22.66 an hour.
Hassinger adds that local municipalities usually pay higher than the state does. He says the agency could compete, with the help of the Missouri Legislature.
“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. Then we have a conversation with the Legislature about making sure the appropriation is available to spend it on those things asking for more money. It’s all there.”
Highway worker demand is a national problem, according to Hassinger.
“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.
All six Republicans and Democratic Congresswoman Cori Bush voted “no” on the infrastructure plan.