WW: What challenges face today's hauling managers? SB: The biggest challenge is waste diversion. Just hauling trash won't do it anymore. Now we divert brush to composting facilities and paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, aluminum and steel are all diverted to recycling centers. From the recycling centers, the materials have to be hauled to the mills. All of our arteries used to lead straight to the landfill; now they branch out in so many different directions.
WW: How have economic considerations transformed waste collection in recent years? SB: The equipment that we're dealing with has gotten so expensive and the market has gotten very competitive. You've got to keep an eye on your budgets, manpower and overhead. It's a constant challenge, but it's fun. You've got to keep focused the whole time.
WW: How will technological advances change collection in the future? SB: Transfer stations are popping up all over the place. We haul to the transfer stations and then the materials at the transfer stations are hauled to the landfill. Each hauling company, regardless of its size, keeps reaching out to expand its service base. The technology just walks right along with you. Now when you drive a front loader, it's like getting into a Star Wars vehicle. It's changed that much in eight years. We used to have the old, hard, lever controls - now it's a joy stick.
WW: How have and how will increasing regulations effect waste collection? SB: It seems like Department of Transportation regulations change yearly, and it's for the good of the haulers. You have to keep abreast; your information has to come in daily. The same is true for environmental and labor regulations. You have to keep on top of them because they change day to day.
WW: What is the future for the small- to medium-sized hauler? SB: There's a good future for small- to medium-sized haulers - as long as they stay up with their customer service. If they can provide the service, there will always be a market for the small- to medium-sized hauler.
Whether you're managing one or 100 people, always keep focused on your goals and don't ever be afraid to use the alternatives at your fingertips. That's what keeps the small and medium haulers in business. If you're not afraid to take an extra step for a customer, you'll always be in the ball game. Be honest with them and show them exactly what you're going to do with their material, whether it's going to a recycling center or to the landfill. There are so many options now for each customer to take. The small- to medium -sized haulers will be around for a long time - they're still the backbone of the waste industry.
WW: What are potential growth strategies for haulers in the '90s? SB: Innovative ways to haul. Anybody can haul trash; but when it really comes down to it, it's customer service that you need. I know I keep saying 'customer service,' but it's preached to every hauler and a lot of times it's taken for granted. As a manager, you wouldn't believe what you can accomplish if you go out of your way to show a customer the alternatives. You can compete with anyone, as long as you're honest with your customers.
Being an operations manager is like being an offensive coordinator in football. You have to know your equipment capabilities and your employees' capabilities. Know the flow of your business, your contacts, your budgets and your environment, and manage accordingly.
The ideals I teach here are safety, customer service, image and teamwork. A smaller hauler such as ourselves has to have a great image. For operations managers, an important tool that I use is being physical. Just because I graduated from the University of Texas doesn't mean that I can't operate the equipment - I operate all of it. I make myself visible to all of my employees, not on the yard, but out in the work field. With a good work ethic, determination and pride, you'll succeed.