The COVID-19 pandemic presents several challenges with maintaining a sufficient snow-fighting workforce.  When employees are impacted or quarantined, COVID has the potential to close an entire truck station.  Our goal is to provide snow and ice services on our roadways while minimizing the risk to our employees and the safety of the public, and that “No truck station is shut down due to COVID”.  Over the past several months, we have developed prevention strategies to meet this goal, and mitigation strategies in the unfortunate event a truck station needs to close. The department’s program to test all employees who are not vaccinated weekly should also reduce the likelihood of an entire truck station being exposed to an asymptomatic individual.Training will also be provided to the districts centrally as needed for emergency and/or backup drivers.

As the beginning of the snow and ice season begins in mid-October, districts should be diligent in monitoring COVID 19 exposure and positive testing.  Throughout the season we will need to be sure we have an adequate number of employees to plow the roadways and keep the roads safe.  This plan contains a number of prevention and contingency strategies districts should use throughout the winter. MnDOT has a highly effective professional snow fighting staff and plans to focus the vast majority of our contingency efforts in Plan A, which contains a variety of strategies to fully utilize these highly skilled Operators. Contingency Plans B through F are included as options should conditions worsen to a level beyond what can be handled with internal staff. The strategies contained in this document should be used in the order which best meets the needs of specific situations.

Prevention Strategies to Reduce Spread of COVID-19 between Employees

It will be vitally important this winter season that all employees follow and adhere to the established policies, protocols, best practices and guidance regarding COVID-19 in order to maintain a healthy workforce and our ability to provide critical snow & ice services.  The following protocols are being implemented, in coordination with our union partners, to prevent the spread of COVID between employees and prevent the closure of a truck station:

  • Complete the daily health screening prior to reporting to work, and enter buildings or equipment only if cleared to do so.
  • Limit occupancy in any room to the posted maximum, require use of masks inside buildings per the policy, and maintain social distancing boundaries and practices.
  • Consider staggering starting times to minimize staff in the truck stations.
  • Separate the overlap time between shifts or separate areas / locations where shifts report (don’t mix shift crews).
  • Set aside time at the beginning and end of each shift to sanitize plows and shop areas. 
  • During non-snow events, take extreme measures to social distance staff and consider teleworking for alternative work duties that allow (e.g. training).
  • Encourage single occupancy of vehicles, but if not possible follow ‘2 Per Vehicle’ policy requirements (face coverings, disinfection, etc.).
  • Continue as in last winter season with wiping down equipment in accordance with the MnDOT Facility and/or Vehicle Cleaning/Disinfection Guidelines for COVID-19 established in FY21. 
  • Inform your union of the plans and processes within this plan and discuss at the upcoming statewide labor management meeting.
  • Verify vaccination or testing protocols have been followed for all drivers. 

Contingency Plans

In the event a truck station is impacted by COVID-19, and is unable to sufficiently staff plows, the following strategies are being considered.   We are optimistic that only Plan A will be needed but have explored Plans B-F in extreme COVID-19 cases and weather events.   Before implementing Plans B-F, we would consider temporarily lowering our level of service in some limited areas. In the event Plans B-F must be implemented, districts should reach out to discuss the need with their local AFSCME leadership.

  • Plan A – Use internal staff to perform snow and ice operations.   Internal staff are most familiar with the roadway system and are highly trained for safety.   This plan provides union employees with snow and ice in their position description the first opportunity to clear the roadways.  This plan has the following four levels:
    • Strategy 1 – Use our primary snow fighting workforce.
    • Strategy 2 – Utilize backup snow fighters within each district, including emergency or volunteer snow fighters.  MnDOT has additional staff with Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDL) that are currently not assigned to plow snow but may be able to provide assistance.  These employees will need to receive updated training and meet all operating requirements.  A mini-SPOT (Snow Plow Operator Training) session at the district or centrally may be needed.  These employees will also need to be added to the drug and alcohol testing pool.   
    • Strategy 3 – Temporarily lower level of service where possible and consider going to a single shift.
    • Strategy 4 – Distribute work to adjacent truck stations.  This may reduce the speed in which the roadways are cleared, but utilizes highly trained staff to operate the complex machinery.  
    • Strategy 5 – Request assistance from an adjacent district to extend their connecting routes into requesting district for coverage.   
    • Strategy 6 – Activate mobile volunteer MnDOT snow fighter workforce.  This workforce would be experienced P1 snow fighters from across the state that have volunteered to travel to a requesting district to supplement staff temporarily.  Assisting district could use various options such as P2’s, volunteers, temps or Level 3 distribution as mitigation if necessary. Also, these employees will be separate from the typical solicitation of volunteers.
      • Priority 1 Operators may volunteer to be placed on a list of voluntary staff willing to travel to support another district.
      • A district in need may request support from other districts that may have the ability to provide support.
      • If a district is asked to provide support, the District Supervisors, Superintendents and/or AME will determine:
        • If the district’s current staffing level will allow them to provide support.
        • If so, what locations in the district are in the best position to provide that support.
        • Once a truck station is determined as being able to provide support, if more than one individual from the truck station is on the volunteer list, the Operators will be asked if they’d be willing to assist the other district based on seniority order.
        • If more than one Operator from a truck station is on the volunteer list, the district may have to limit how many they agree to send at one time.
        • If more Operators are needed, the district would move to the next truck station most able to provide support and offer by seniority to those on the volunteer list from that location.
        • If a district provides support to another district, the providing district will follow their normal process of how to fill behind the absence of an Operator on a given shift.
        • Please note – there is no guarantee of overtime for those that volunteer to go to another district, although the odds are good some OT will be available.
        • The volunteer may or may not be used on the same A or B shift they are on in their home district.
  • Plan B – Utilize other state employees (non-MnDOT) with CDL licenses.  We could explore an interagency agreement with DNR to utilize their CDL workforce to assist in an extreme event.   We are currently working with the DNR, but executing the agreement, training and deployment could be challenges implementing this season.  The Chief Engineer will contact DNR leadership to discuss.  Contact with Labor Relations will also be made in order to involve AFSCME leadership.
  • Plan C – Request assistance from city and county snow fighting forces.  Local agencies will be busy with their own snow removal activities, causing limitations with this option.  There is also the option to contact airport employees who have snow plowing experience.           AFSCME leadership will need to be kept informed. 
    • In the event a district is asked to provide snow and ice control services for a local unit of government, payment for those services should be made through the Master Partnership Agreements. The MnDOT Office of Finance has determined districts should charge a rate of $181.16 per hour for the 2021-22 winter season. This cost includes labor (regular and OT), equipment, materials and overhead. No additional charges should be made beyond the hourly rate.
  • Plan D – Mobilize Minnesota National Guard.  The MNG would only be considered in an extreme weather event if the opening of roads due to COVID-19 was significantly delayed.  This would require 24 hours’ notice and an emergency authorization.  MnDOT has contacted the guard regarding the potential to provide advanced training.
  • Plan E –Execute negotiated maintenance contracts, when time is available, or an emergency order/emergency authorization, when necessary with private contractors to assist in snow removal operations.  There are limited contractors that have the equipment required to plow/ice/sand on the trunk highway system.  Private contractors will not be allowed to operate MnDOT plow trucks. Materials will be loaded by MnDOT staff.  See attachment on requirements for negotiated contracts. 

Plan F – Close a road until it can be plowed.  This would only be used in extreme circumstances when there are no other options available.  The road would only be closed until snow fighters from other areas could be mobilized in to reopen the road.




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