A perfect storm of circumstances has created a shortage of these unsung heroes. While the American general unemployment rate is 4.0% (as of Jan 2019), waste industry unemployment is at 2.4% (BLS). In the waste industry, they’re known as “haulers.” And not having enough of them, particularly drivers, is causing a panic.
This issue is complex, but we can narrow down its primary causes:
We’re seeing haulers retire without a younger workforce to replace them. The average age of waste management and remediation services workers is 46.3, with the highest concentration of workers aged 45-54 (BLS).
Shifting attitudes towards blue collar work, including trash stigma
General American outsourcing reduced available jobs and the talent pool disproportionately, with not enough talent to meet domestic demands. “[Y]oung Americans just don’t consider manufacturing to be a sexy vocation,” says Dennis Winslow, owner of manufacturing company Win-Tech. And trash is amongst the least “sexy” professions, no matter how essential.
The demand and specialized training required does not always ultimately return on wages, and that certainly doesn’t make this career path any sexier. Median pay for Refuse and Recyclable Material Collectors comes in at $17.39/hour or $36,160/year (BLS).
Yet, with less haulers available, haulers do earn a considerable amount of overtime. One Houston hauler reports racking up $948,000 of overtime in a single three-month period, and those expenses can get costly.
Increased freight driver demand
The shipping required behind the Amazon boom has caused the demand for commercial drivers to skyrocket – and that has reduced the number of available drivers that can drive trash trucks. This truck driver shortage is expected to triple by 2026 (TheStreet).
Inefficient time constraints
For the past 18 years, China was one of the biggest buyers of American recycling – until they stopped accepting foreign recyclables as part of their National Sword program in 2018 (99% Invisible). Now American recycling facilities are overwhelmed and the few haulers available are stuck in long lines when disposing their collections, making them unavailable for other services.
This predicament is overwhelming and has intense consequences. Fortunately, our technologyallows us to meet the industry where it is, and wherever it’s heading – particularly our unique routing software.
Our routing software is unparalleled in the industry. While our sensors monitor dumpster fill levels, our advanced analytics software monitors and predicts waste needs. Then our routing software creates a collection route to service the highest number of dumpsters in need while driving the fewest number of miles.
This practice not only allows haulers to meet customer needs, but also allows haulers to utilize their time in the most efficient way possible – no matter how many drivers are on their team. In fact, an Enevo internal study revealed that on a single dense route, Enevo was able to reduce total hauler drive time by 67% and miles driven by 57%.
The waste industry will fluctuate and evolve, but it will remain. Proper waste services are a fixture of functional society, and we believe in supporting haulers through the changing times. We proudly forge true partnerships with local haulers, providing our tech for free. We simply can’t do business (or everyday life) without them.