FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Call it trash talk if you want to, but Flagler County residents are seeking answers because their garbage has not been picked up in recent days.
Flagler County said Thursday that County Administrator Jerry Cameron reached out to Waste Pro, the county’s contracted garbage collector, which said it is having difficulty finding workers, similar to restaurants and other local businesses.
The worker shortage has resulted in off-schedule collections and a pile of complaints, according to the county.
“They have received zero applications for their advertised positions of ‘helper’ on the truck routes, and have had to resort to using temporary agencies,” Cameron said in a news release. “The temporary agencies are also unable to find sufficient staffing to meet the need, and in those instances that they are able to find temporary employees, it is at roughly a 50% increase in cost.”
Cameron said, in general, pickups have been delayed by a few days, but it has not reached the point of a health hazard.
Waste Pro is attempting to remedy the situation by bringing in trucks from other areas, but the company is having limited success.
“We are navigating through unprecedented times surrounding staffing and, like other industries, we are not immune to the nationwide driver shortage,” the company said in a written statement. “The demand for qualified drivers currently outpaces supply.”
Waste Pro cited enhanced requirements at the federal level as a reason for narrowing an already shallow pool of eligible, licensed, professional drivers.
“In addition to a nationwide shortage of drivers, our local markets are also experiencing a shortage of willing and qualified labor. Unskilled laborers fill a position for Waste Pro called ‘helper’ – the second person that staffs our horticulture and bulk routes,” the company stated. “Recent and ongoing changes to unemployment benefits, combined with stimulus checks and other enhanced government assistance programs, makes it more attractive for many people to not work rather than to get up daily and work in a manually labor-intensive environment, such as ours.”
Waste Pro has increased its efforts to attract and retain employees through additional advertising and job fairs, as well as retention and new driver referral bonuses. Cameron mentioned the company is paying 50% more for some positions.
“In addition to not being able to field enough trucks. They don’t have enough people on the trucks so if you’ve got a large trash pile or something they may miss it, or they may pick it up a piece at a time,” Cameron said. “They just got some real challenges now ... they’re doing everything they can to try and fill those gaps.”
“A general shortage of labor is certainly being felt in Flagler County,” Cameron said.
While some areas have begun fining Waste Pro for late pickups, Cameron said Flagler County does not intend to do that.
“Unless we thought they were not doing the best they could, we would not want to impose any fines ... And when we get a particular situation, where we were able to contact Waste Pro and deal with that situation, they’ve been very responsive on that,” Cameron said.
Below is the Waste Pro statement in its entirety:
We are navigating through unprecedented times surrounding staffing and like other industries, we are not immune to the nationwide driver and labor pool shortages. The demand for qualified drivers currently outpaces supply. Enhanced requirements at the federal level, such as the DOT Drug Clearing House and more stringent review of driver CSA scores have further narrowed an already shallow pool of eligible, licensed, professional drivers.
In addition to a nationwide shortage of drivers, our local markets are also experiencing a shortage of willing and qualified labor. Unskilled laborers fill a position for Waste Pro called “helper” - the second person that staffs our Horticulture and Bulk routes. Recent and ongoing changes to unemployment benefits, combined with stimulus checks and other enhanced government assistance programs, make it more attractive for many people to not work rather than to get up daily and work in a manually labor-intensive environment, such as ours.
This is not simply a Waste Pro issue or solid waste collection concern. The impact of the driver shortage, while not new, continues to spread throughout the United States. All roadway transport industries from over-the-road trucking, gas tankers, rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft as well as hospitality industries such as restaurants, bars, and hotels are feeling the effect.
The Flagler Beach Business Bureau stated in a letter to Governor DeSantis earlier in April, “There is a crisis brewing that needs your immediate attention. We know how to compete with and against each other, we compete with the weather and hurricanes but never had to compete with our government.”
The labor pool shortage is unsustainable and it is during these challenging times that we must come together and support our industry and our communities we serve.