Austin could be 6 months away from waste service impact amid driver shortage

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — For the last seven years, Damien Bailey Harris has been exploring Austin neighborhoods through his route.

“It’s a good opportunity just to travel around, see the city and meet a lot of residents,” the senior operator specialist for Austin Resource Recovery said.

Damien Bailey Harris is a one-man show. (KXAN Photo/Candy Rodriguez)

He’s focused on collecting organics, which are mainly made up of compost and yard trimmings, and lately, work has been busy.

“The overtime – it takes a toll sometimes,” Harris said.

That’s because ARR is down 60 operators or about 15% of its workforce.

“The major reason has to do with the fact that pay is a concern and also the value of drivers is higher than it has ever been before,” said Ken Snipes, the city organization’s director.

Across the industry, Snipes said they’re seeing more and more truck drivers taking jobs with delivery services and logistics companies.

“We live in an age now where we want to pick up our phones and order something and we expect to see it in a few short days,” he said.

That’s why Snipes said they’re in process of reevaluating their pay — currently $16 an hour — in an effort to remain competitive. Right now, Texas Disposal Systems is offering an up to $8,000 sign-on bonus for new employees.

This summer, the City of Houston did something similar and began offering $3,000 signing bonuses. Other cities like Dallas and Denver had to delay trash pickups due to worker shortages. While in New Jersey, municipal workers in one neighborhood had to pick up trash after their local trash hauler said it had no drivers.

Harris is just hoping they’ll get some new recruits soon.

“I know we will get more employees to work here to hold it down,” Harris said.

This Saturday, Nov. 13, ARR will host a job fair in hopes of recruiting new employees. The Austin Resource Recovery Driver Job Fair is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Kenneth Gardner Service Center (KGSC) at 4108 Todd Lane in Austin.

Those at ARR said potential employees do not need any driving experience and training to get a commercial driver’s license is provided.

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