For two decades, WCA Waste Corp. has provided waste collection and disposal services to residential and commercial clients.
David Dominguez, fleet director, keeps WCA’s vehicles in the Greater Houston area in top condition. He started with WCA in 2006 as a fleet mechanic, and he has worked his way up in the company, moving to shop supervisor and next shop manager. He advanced to his current role about a year and half ago.
Dominguez started out as a mechanic at the age of 18 with the company. Now, at 30 years old, he's risen to his current position.
Dominquez, who was named as one of Waste360’s 40 Under 40 award recipients, discusses his leadership philosophy, his work to raise the bar for meeting preventative maintenance goals and why he thinks the waste industry offers great opportunities.
Waste360: What are your areas of responsibility?
David Dominguez: I take care of the landfill heavy equipment and the on-road vehicles such as trash collection vehicles. My responsibilities are to plan and schedule any and all maintenance for my area. I am in charge of all of the equipment, and all of the shop managers report to me. I have full responsibility for the profit and loss statements, budgeting, and repairs.
Waste360: What are some of the routine challenges you focus on?
David Dominguez: Basically, we focus on compliance. That’s making sure that we are staying on top of our preventative maintenance (PM) program; making sure that all of our shops are doing all the services in a timely manner; and following up with quality control inspections and seeing that our technicians are doing a quality job on every truck they bring in to service.
For PM compliance, using your car, for example, if it needs an oil change at 3,000 miles, my company gives me a window of opportunity to do that. I can either do it 100 miles early or 100 miles late. If I do it either too early or too late, I get a “0”. I get graded on my compliance. Our goal is to stay above a 90 percent PM compliance. That is where we are right now.
Waste360: How do you get your team to buy-in to the importance of preventative maintenance?
David Dominguez: It’s a matter of getting them involved in the day-to-day planning and scheduling of the program. Every shop has a supervisor and a manager, and we have daily conference calls and review their compliance. Sometimes, it’s good and sometimes it’s not. We discuss our plan. If it was good, we discuss what we did to get there; if it was bad, what caused that to happen? Was there a mechanic who was out sick for a week and that put us behind schedule, or whatever it was. We try to avoid that as much as possible but the majority of the time we do pretty good.
Waste360: How do you empower your team and why is that important to you?
David Dominguez: I give them full responsibility and hold them accountable for the expectations of the company. We are guided by our corporate standards and I hold them to that. If they need help then I step in and help them with whatever they need. I give them full empowerment to make the decision they need to make to be successful.
Waste360: What experience did you have before you came to WCA that helped to prepare you for your career?
David Dominguez: I went to Texas State Technical College. I studied there for two years. While I was working with WCA I was actually going to school in the morning and working at night in the maintenance shops. I think that was a big benefit to me.
Waste360: What encouragement might you give to young people who may not have considered working the waste management industry?
David Dominguez: I think the biggest encouragement is the stability of the industry. It’s not like oil fields or any other industries like that where you see downturns in the business. For my company, it has been steady growth—maybe not huge growth—but steady growth. The compensation is good; there is job security; there is always room to grow. I think that is what has kept me in this industry.
I look back on my path—I started out as a mechanic at the age of 18. Now, at 30, I’m a fleet director for WCA. I’ve come a long way, and I look to keep going even further. I think that would be my biggest sell to anyone looking to go into the waste industry. There is room for growth and it’s a steady business. There is a lot to the business to learn. You are always learning something new.
Waste360: What do you think is something that you are really proud that you have been able to achieve during your career at WCA?
David Dominguez: I think the biggest thing is getting to the position where I am today. That’s a big achievement. I think the second biggest thing is that when I started with WCA and we started grading our PM compliance, we were down around 30 percent. That was about two years ago when I stepped into the role; and now we are up to 92 percent. It has come a long way. It has taken a lot of time and a lot of headaches but we got there, and we’re still trying to work to get better. That is a big thing that our company has been pretty proud that we have been able to do in this area.
Waste360: How did the recent Hurricane Harvey affect the fleet in the Houston area?
David Dominguez: All of our vehicles were safe. We did lose one hauling facility. We were able to bring in support and get everything taken care of fairly quickly. There were no major issues that put a damper on our day-to-day business.
Waste360: Do you work with partners to prepare for these situations? How did you address a storm coming in?
David Dominguez: We have a best practice manual for situations like this. Up to the storm and after the storm, we were having conference calls about every four hours. We put together a checklist for each facility to make sure everything was locked down tight and that all of our equipment was up high and in a safe area. That was our big focus. We wanted to make sure that that we had pumps, generators, and water and food for our employees. In the Greater Gulf Coast area, a hurricane is just something that is part of a normal day, I guess. It is but it isn’t. You just prepare for it and wish for the best.
Waste360: The company lost only one facility in the Greater Houston area?
David Dominguez: One of our small facilities. It took on about three feet of water throughout the facility. It was an older facility so it made the best sense to demolish the building and start over because it had so much damage. Temporarily, we brought in mobile mini trailers, and that is what they are working out of at that facility. They are back up and running.
Our other WCA regional offices outside of the Greater Houston area brought in support. They gave us drivers, trucks, and equipment to help us with our operations so we didn’t miss a beat.
Waste360: With regards to how you manage your staff, if you had one bit of advice to encourage your team, what would you tell them?
David Dominguez: I set their goals and when they achieve those goals, I reward them. That’s one thing that I do a lot. It’s not even just with my managers and supervisors. I spend a lot of time with my mechanics that are in the shops. If their shop does well, and they are hitting all of their compliance goals, I will throw in a reward for them like take them all to dinner or have a shop barbecue with everyone together. We all spend some time together and get to talk. We don’t worry about work but just hang out with each other and have a good time.