The solid waste industry is being hit particularly hard by the shortage of over-the-road (OTR) truck drivers in the US, which is at the highest level it has been in 15 years according to a new report from the Solid Waste Association of North America’s (SWANA) Applied Research Foundation (ARF).
The study, Recruiting Personnel for Solid Waste Collection Services, found that the causes for the driver shortage include an aging workforce, occupational danger, increased demand for trucking services due to industry growth and low participation of women in the industry.
The report estimates that about 1000 women are employed in waste and recyclables collection, which equates to about 1% of the 116,000 sanitation workers in the US. These data indicate the tremendous potential that exists for addressing the waste and recycling collection driver shortage through the recruitment and retention of female drivers.
According to Jeremy O’Brien, SWANA’s Director of Applied Research, “This report highlights the potential for women to play an increasingly important role in the provision of solid waste collection services and the valuable benefits that these jobs offer – such as regular hours, no time away from home, and the universal and permanent need for skilled employees in this industry.”
The need for the study was identified by the City of Tucson, an ARF subscriber in the Collection Research Group. “A study is needed on today’s operators – past, current, and future,” said Pat Tapia, S.C., the Deputy Director of the Department of Environmental Services for the City of Tucson. “It seems like we are having a harder time getting young operators wanting to get into the industry. Just a quick study we did in Tucson recognized that our average age of driver being hired is 36 years old.”
The report reviewed a number of recruitment programs instituted by companies and organizations to attract new drivers. These programs include strategies such as training and working one-on-one with employees who are studying for the “Commercial Driver’s License” (CDL) exams as well as paying for the costs of the exam. Another strategy is to target the hiring of persons who were formerly incarcerated.
“With the CDL industry in high demand, Phoenix has embraced this challenge as an opportunity to expand our outreach to under-represented demographics among the solid waste ranks such as women, veterans, and youth,” said Felipe Moreno, the Deputy Public Works Director for the city of Phoenix – which also participates in the ARF’s Collection Research Group.
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