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MoDOT Is Bleeding Employees; Traffic Agency Tries Raises To Stem Departures

Many MoDOT employees are trained to operate complicated machines and vehicles.
File Photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio
Many MoDOT employees are trained to operate complicated machines and vehicles.

Missouri’s Transportation Department is losing employees at a worrisome rate, said Patrick McKenna, its director. 

McKenna said that nearly half of the department's workforce has left and been replaced since 2017. That turnover cost nearly $37 million last fiscal year, according to MoDOT estimates. 

McKenna said that high turnover rate has made it hard to get employees trained in time for them to deal with bad weather. 

“You enter into $150,000 piece of equipment you, you go out fully loaded with materials with a big cloud blade on it, and you drive in the public during storm events,” he said. “It requires skill, it requires training, and it requires experience.”

More than 550 MoDOT workers left the department in fiscal 2017, whether by resigning, retiring or being fired. That number grew to nearly 700 people the following fiscal year. And MoDOT officials say departures this fiscal year, which began in July, are on pace to eclipse that number. 

If employees continue leaving at that rate, the agency could lose 15% of its staff this year, officials said.

McKenna attributed many of the departures to workers retiring or resigning because of low wages. 

MoDOT has already started taking steps to slow the rate of departures. The department implemented a temporary pay increase last year for employees who work during severe weather. And McKenna said MoDOT has identified money in its current budget that can be used to raise employee salaries. 

McKenna said he hopes the department this year will be able to offer at least a 1.85% raise to most of its employees. He said he wants to increase wages more for high-turnover positions. 

MoDOT is also changing its apprenticeships to provide college credit to students and count toward veterans programs. McKeena said those changes will improve MoDOT’s pipeline to prospective employees.

Officials say that they filled more than 1,400 open positions last year. 

Follow Kae on Twitter: @kmaepetrin

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Kae Petrin covers public transportation and housing as a digital reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.