Omaha trash delays caused by driver shortage?

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July 3rd, 2015

 

The company in charge of trash pickup in Omaha, Deffenbaugh/Waste Management, said a shortage of drivers is one contributing factor in the company’s recent poor service. (Image courtesy of staticflickr)

This week, the City of Omaha fined Deffenbaugh/Waste Management $100,000 for poor service during the months of May and June. But the delay in trash service could be a symptom of a larger problem.


It’s been a tough summer for trash collection in the Omaha area. It rained a bit more during May and June, which caused the grass to grow a little bit quicker, which forced homeowners to mow more often, which meant more yard waste getting hauled to the curb. But once it got there, it stayed there longer than it should have.

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At Tuesday’s Omaha City Council meeting, council members added a special agenda item to discuss Deffanbaugh/Waste Management’s poor performance during the last two months. On Wednesday, the company was fined $100,000. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

At Tuesday’s Omaha City Council meeting, Councilman Pete Festersen said, “residents have been very patient on [delays in trash service], given the rain and large volumes that have contributed to this, but at this point the delays are no longer okay. 24, 48 hours–sometimes 6 days in my district–being the norm is not okay for a basic city service.”

Festersen and Councilman Chris Jerram introduced a resolution urging the City’s administration to work with the company in charge of picking up the City’s trash, Deffenbaugh Industries.

Festersen said he understood the current delays aren’t because local Deffenbaugh employees aren’t working hard. Jerram agreed, but went one step further by criticizing Deffenbaugh for not sending a representative before the council to answer for the company’s actions, as had previously been done.

“They don’t even send a representative to answer to the public in an open forum, where they know there’s accountability, there’s transparency,” Jerram said. “Nobody from the local Deffenbaugh office has the courtesy and respect for the citizens of Omaha and their management to send someone here to answer questions.”

On Wednesday, officials from Deffenbaugh met with the City’s Public Works Department and representatives from the Mayor’s office. An agreement was reached where Deffenbaugh will continue to be paid through tax dollars to haul trash for the city. Although Deffenbaugh will have to pay a $100,000 fine for two months of poor service.

Lisa Disbrow is the spokesperson for Deffenbaugh Industries. In a phone interview on Thursday, she said, “The message that I want to convey is we understand the frustration of the residents and the city officials. Servicing our customers is our top priority, and we’re bringing every resource to bear.”

Disbrow said Deffenbaugh will continue to pick up trash and yard waste together for the next few months, which will help the company catch up on routes.

But the delays in trash service could just be the symptom of a bigger problem. Not just anyone can drive a garbage truck for Deffenbaugh Industries, only people with a Commercial Drivers’ License, or CDL.

“And there is a shortage of drivers. Regionally and I think you can even say nationally, there is a shortage of drivers,” Disbrow explained.

It takes about eight weeks to get a CDL. Currently, there are an estimated 35,000 vacancies in the trucking industry today, and that number is only expected to get bigger over the next 10 years.

Disbrow said right now in the Omaha area alone, Deffenbaugh is short 13 drivers on their trash collection routes. And with the City discussing the possibility of annexing more homes, Disbrow said they’ll need at least 10 more drivers to ensure timely service. The need for drivers is even prompting Deffenbaugh to offer a $4,000 signing bonus.

To help fill the need with local talent, Deffenbaugh will begin working with Heartland Workforce Solutions, Southeast Community College, Metro Community College, and the Nebraska Truckers Association.

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