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SWANA Report Highlights Growing Truck Driver Shortage

A new report from SWANA’s Applied Research Foundation identifies causes and solutions to the worsening truck driver shortage.

Latest trucking statistics show that the shortage of over-the-road truck drivers in the U.S. is at the highest level it has been in 15 years—a driver shortage mirrored in the waste collection industry.

According to a new report, “Recruiting Personnel for Solid Waste Collection Services,” by the Solid Waste Association of North America’s (SWANA) Applied Research Foundation (ARF), causes for the driver shortage include an aging workforce, occupational danger, increased demand for trucking services due to industry growth and low participation of women in the industry.

The report estimates that about 1,000 women are employed in waste and recyclables collection, which equates to about 1 percent of the 116,000 sanitation workers in the U.S. These data indicate the tremendous potential that exists for addressing the waste and recycling collection driver shortage through the recruitment and retention of female drivers.

“This report highlights the potential for women to play an increasingly important role in the provision of solid waste collection services and the valuable benefits that these jobs offer—such as regular hours, no time away from home and the universal and permanent need for skilled employees in this industry,” said Jeremy O’Brien, SWANA’s director of Applied Research, in a statement.

The need for the study was identified by the city of Tucson, Ariz., an ARF subscriber in the Collection Research Group.

“A study is needed on today’s operators—past, current and future,” said Pat Tapia, S.C., the deputy director of the Department of Environmental Services for the city of Tucson, in a statement. “It seems like we are having a harder time getting young operators wanting to get into the industry. Just a quick study we did in Tucson recognized that our average age of driver being hired is 36 years old.”

The report reviews a number of recruitment programs instituted by companies and organizations to attract new drivers. These programs include strategies such as training and working one-on-one with employees who are studying for the commercial driver’s license (CDL) exams as well as paying for the costs of the exam. Another strategy is to target the hiring of persons who were formerly incarcerated.

“With the CDL industry in high demand, Phoenix has embraced this challenge as an opportunity to expand our outreach to under-represented demographics among the solid waste ranks such as women, veterans and youth,” said Felipe Moreno, the deputy public works director for the city of Phoenix, which also participates in the ARF’s Collection Research Group, in a statement.

The full report currently is only available to SWANA ARF subscribers. SWANA members receive free access to ARF industry reports one year after publication.

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