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How a former college football coach solved Omaha’s snow plow problem

The former college football coach in charge of recruiting and training Omaha snow plow drivers says you may notice streets plowed more efficiently this winter.After only having 42 of 96 jobs filled in late October of 2021, Jake Behrns says the city is now fully staffed with auto equipment operators.”That makes a huge difference, so that means that the Streets Department doesn’t have to dip into other departments,” Behrns said.Before coaching potential plow drivers on a simulator and organizing the city’s first job fairs coming out of the pandemic, Behrns coached at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and Wayne State College.A snow plow simulator at the Omaha Public Safety Training Center allows Behrns to coach potential plow drivers who may have already had a commercial driver’s license. He says the Nebraska Department of Transportation dropped a 14-day training restriction, which speed up the hiring process.A test drive inside the simulator encountered students crossing the street to leave school, frozen roads, car pile-ups, and cars that slid through red lights. Drivers also have to attend air brakes and instruments that drop amounts of brine and salt.The three-screen simulator prevents underperforming plow drivers from damaging real-life equipment.”It’s not only our equipment, we’re worried about the citizens of Omaha as well,” Behrns said. “We’re worried about dings on cars, we’re worried about busted mailboxes, we’re worried about property damage as well. Our equipment is gonna get damaged, but we’re more worried about the impact that it does for the citizens of Omaha, not just the city of Omaha. So that’s why we wanted to make sure that we were training them to the best of our ability.”When Behrns joined the human resources department, they planned the first job fairs coming out of the height of the pandemic to solve the city’s unemployment problem.”Once we recruit these people, we want to be able to retain them,” Behrns said.When winter turns to spring, those streets department employees will be filling potholes and patching busted concrete—transitioning between seasons.”When you have 96 employees that are out there plowing, those streets will get done on a timely basis,” Behrns said.

The former college football coach in charge of recruiting and training Omaha snow plow drivers says you may notice streets plowed more efficiently this winter.

After only having 42 of 96 jobs filled in late October of 2021, Jake Behrns says the city is now fully staffed with auto equipment operators.

“That makes a huge difference, so that means that the Streets Department doesn’t have to dip into other departments,” Behrns said.

Before coaching potential plow drivers on a simulator and organizing the city’s first job fairs coming out of the pandemic, Behrns coached at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and Wayne State College.

A snow plow simulator at the Omaha Public Safety Training Center allows Behrns to coach potential plow drivers who may have already had a commercial driver’s license. He says the Nebraska Department of Transportation dropped a 14-day training restriction, which speed up the hiring process.

A test drive inside the simulator encountered students crossing the street to leave school, frozen roads, car pile-ups, and cars that slid through red lights. Drivers also have to attend air brakes and instruments that drop amounts of brine and salt.

The three-screen simulator prevents underperforming plow drivers from damaging real-life equipment.

“It’s not only our equipment, we’re worried about the citizens of Omaha as well,” Behrns said. “We’re worried about dings on cars, we’re worried about busted mailboxes, we’re worried about property damage as well. Our equipment is gonna get damaged, but we’re more worried about the impact that it does for the citizens of Omaha, not just the city of Omaha. So that’s why we wanted to make sure that we were training them to the best of our ability.”

When Behrns joined the human resources department, they planned the first job fairs coming out of the height of the pandemic to solve the city’s unemployment problem.

“Once we recruit these people, we want to be able to retain them,” Behrns said.

When winter turns to spring, those streets department employees will be filling potholes and patching busted concrete—transitioning between seasons.

“When you have 96 employees that are out there plowing, those streets will get done on a timely basis,” Behrns said.


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