City of Austin looking to hire more drivers for trash collection

The drivers who pick up your trash are in short supply in Austin.

"We have quite a shortage," said Austin Resource Recovery Director Ken Snipes. "I haven’t experienced this before, not in my professional life."

Austin Resource Recovery has 350 full-time driver positions. Right now, they’re down 60 drivers, or about 17% of their workforce.

"And so if we continue on the trend that we’re seeing, in about 6 to 8 months maybe we might find ourselves in a spot where we start to cut back or triage some of our services."

What could that look like? 

"So we’d probably start with similar to what you may have seen during Winter Storm Uri, where we didn’t provide bulk collection or brush collection and things like that," said Snipes. "But we’d try to maintain, or would maintain the core services."

"It could get stinky," said Molly Lyon, who’s lived in Northeast Austin with her husband B.C. for more than 50 years.  

"We don’t want to lose services due to the lack of personnel for the city," said B.C. Lyon.

They say in recent months they have noticed some changes in their pickups. "Sometimes they don’t do all three cans. Sometimes they’ll do 2 and late in the evening they’ll pick another one up, said B.C. Lyon. "Every now and then there’ll be a day where they don’t pick it up that day. It’ll be the next day."

So why is this all happening? City officials say the COVID-19 pandemic has been a big factor.

"Now we have people at home, they want to pick up their phone and order materials and have it on their porch in two days, and to make that happen you need drivers. So we’re starting to see new demand for drivers that might not have existed before," said Snipes.

Companies like Amazon, FedEx, UPS and others often pay more than the $16 an hour these city drivers start at. Snipes says the city is looking at bumping up pay and adding a signing bonus for drivers.

"We want to continue to be competitive in the market," said Snipes. "And it’s a major decision for them in terms of whether they want to leave or not, or stay."

"Of course if they pay more money that means they’ll increase taxes so that’s not good, but I still want the workers to get an honest pay for the work they do, because they work hard at doing that job," 

That’s especially true right now – with drivers working long hours to cover all those routes. For now, the city is asking residents to be understanding.

"There may be some days where the collection is happening a little bit later in the day than you would typically see, and we would just ask for patience as the guys are out there and working really hard, and they’re coming," said Snipes.

The City of Austin is making a big push to try and hire more drivers. In fact, Resource Recovery is holding a job fair this weekend. It’s happening Saturday, November 13 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Kenneth Gardner Service Center on Todd Lane. You do not need to have driving experience, and can fill out an application here

Menawhile, officials recommend Austin residents download the Austin Recycles app, available on iOS and Android, to be notified of delays or interruptions in service.

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