Constant snow and sleet means long hours for snowplow drivers… especially in rural areas

Local News

Walker Township, Centre County, Pa- The northeastern portion of Centre County saw up to nine inches of snow Monday night into Tuesday morning.

Road crews are working around the clock to keep roads clear of snow, and most recently sleet and freezing rain. In the more rural areas, the need for consistent plowing puts a bigger strain on snowplow drivers.

Unlike some of the more populated municipalities in Centre County, many rural municipalities, like Walker Township, don’t have enough drivers to offer shift-changes. Multiple shifts allow plow drivers extended break time to rest and recover.

Without a full shift to recover, snowplow drivers in Walker Township are prepared for long, hard hours of work.

“You just try to keep working, working, and working…. I started at 2:30 this morning….yesterday morning we came in at 3:00am,” said James Heckman, Assistant Roadmaster for Walker Township.

Heckman says he’s one of three plow drivers for the township.

“There’s over 30 square miles of road, so we have about 10 miles… each of us,” Heckman said.

He added that when the snow gets deep, 10 miles of road can add up fast, along with the overtime.

“The last big snowstorm we had, we were at about 15 hours overtime,” he said.

Working for that period of time without breaks can make anyone drowsy.

“Oh yeah… you get tired. You’re glad when in a couple days you don’t have to come in,” Heckman said.

But while he’s out on the road, Heckman stays focused on the work he’s doing, because the job has its hazards.

“The traffic can be bad on Route 64, and they don’t watch for you…like this tractor trailer here…. they don’t slow up,” Heckman told WTAJ’s Evan Hinkley while the two were in a snowplow near a Route 64 intersection.

While on his plow route, Heckman offered a simple message for drivers: “When you see flashing yellow lights, state or local, township or municipality… slow up and let those people do their work.”

It may delay your trip a couple minutes to wait for a plow to turn around or properly salt and clear roads… but plowed roads can go a long way towards saving driver’s lives.

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