Brutal winter conditions breaks down snow fighting equipment - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Brutal winter conditions breaks down snow fighting equipment

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

This brutal winter is damaging more than just our spirit.

It's also breaking down lots of snow-fighting equipment owned by the state.

In fact the union that represents IDOT maintenance workers is warning of big potential problems as crews scramble to keep up with repairs.

With another round of snow and subzero cold in the forecast for Tuesday, workers at an Illinois Department of Transportation maintenance yard in Hillside headed home Monday evening to get some much needed rest.

The question on their minds is will they be able to rely on the equipment they'll need to keep the roads clear?

"If a plow can't be fixed or serviced, it can't go out on the road to clear the way for motorists. At best this is inefficient, but at worst it's potentially unsafe," Aviva Bowen said.

Bowen, of the Illinois Federation of Public Employees, which represents IDOT maintenance workers in Cook County, said maintenance on IDOT plows and snow removal equipment has fallen far behind this brutal winter.

For instance at IDOT's Rodenburg yard in Schaumburg, Bowen said 15 of the 22 plows were inoperable last week because of maintenance issues.

Additionally, the union said there are only 22 mechanics to service more than 400 trucks that IDOT maintains in Cook County.

It's gotten so bad IDOT recently called in 30 mechanics from the Illinois National Guard to help make emergency repairs to snow fighting equipment.

The union accuses IDOT of allowing the number of mechanics to slip below acceptable staffing levels.

"Some of it is old equipment and some of it is regular maintenance. But the problem exists year round. These trucks are always used, and so if there aren't enough mechanics year round to do preventative maintenance, repairs become more urgent," Bowen said.

However, IDOT tells a different story.

It said right now all but three plows at that Schaumburg yard are operable.

"These historic conditions did strain our vehicles, but at no point did we have an insufficient number to keep the roads cleared and salted. In District 1 (Cook County area), there were 440 trucks to cover 370 routes," IDOT said.

IDOT said it has more 1,700 trucks assigned to snow duty across the state and nearly 3,700 employees working to clear the snow.

However its spokesman admits using the National Guard to repair trucks is not a common occurrence, and calls this winter the worst Illinois has experienced in 20 years.

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