The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) is warning drivers that snow removal operations could be dramatically impacted by staffing shortages this winter. In a December 2 memo, MDT said that the agency is "approximately 50% short of seasonal snowplow operators needed to be fully staffed in Maintenance Sections across the state. Without additional staff this season, it may take much longer to clear Montana's roadways than in recent years." MDT points to "national workforce shortages" as a reason for staffing issues. "MDT is facing significant staffing shortages in a number of areas across the state and will work proactively to clear Montana's highways by shifting crews to the affected areas, when possible," said Jon Swartz, MDT Maintenance Administrator. "Our snowplow operators work day in and day out, including weekends and holidays while putting in 12-hour shifts or longer, and do their best to keep the 25,000 lane miles of roads open for the traveling public." MDT is actively working to hire employees and has offered to train those with little or no experience and to assist select workers with obtaining a CDL once hired. MDT is also enlisting all current employees with a CDL to operate snow plows this winter. "We want the traveling public to understand why it could take longer this season to clear highways during winter storms," Swartz said. "Knowing this helps motorists to plan ahead and adjust or even delay travel plans. This can increase safety for everyone and allow more time for our snowplow operators to clear the roads." For the latest Montana travel information, you can visit www.511mt.net. Other states including Kansas and Washington have issued similar statements to warn drivers about slow snow removal due to a shortage of plow operators.