CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Driving street by street, Gary Maynard has his eye on one thing: The big, blue bins sitting curbside.
Maynard has been with TFC Recycling for more than a decade and is in a supervisory role, but now he's back behind the wheel. Along with other supervisors, he's helping cover routes as the truck driver shortage hits yet another industry.
Paul Stacharczyk, senior vice president and chief operating officer at TFC Recycling, said, "We ended up losing some drivers [during the pandemic] simply because they were afraid to be out in public and so forth. To compound that, is that it became difficult at that point to start recruiting people, because for the same reasons."
He said they also lost qualified drivers to big companies like Amazon and UPS.
"There was a third part that nobody counted on - that when everybody started staying at home, the need for the Amazons of the world and the UPSes of the world skyrocketed, so the people that were available for drivers went to those companies as opposed to coming to ourselves or the cities and so forth."
With less local CDL drivers, rounding up recycling across Hampton Roads is taking a bit longer.
"A seasoned driver will typically service anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 homes a day. The newer people, even after they're trained and so forth, they don't have that skill level, so they're only doing maybe 300," Stacharczyk said.
Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Suffolk and Newport News all sent out notices recently to residents about the delays. Stacharczyk said the communication with the cities is ongoing and for the most part, people have been extremely patient.
TFC Recycling covers a large part of the region, stretching from Hampton Roads up to Richmond.
"All totaled, it's somewhere around 600,00 to 700,000 homes that we service in our marketplace. It's significant, and it takes a lot of drivers to do that," he said.
As an incentive, the company has increased starting wages from $15/hour to $19/hour and began offering a retention bonus of $100 per week per driver.
In addition to that, Stacharczyk said they are also exploring what's called an in-house paid CDL program.
"We bring them in, we put them through a training program and once they're done either, we would certify them for a CDL or we take them to the state and let the state test them," he explained. "What we're doing right now is developing the curriculum to get approved by the state and then getting the trainer certified."
That program is currently still being developed.
While not always the most convenient, people can also bring recycling to city drop-off locations.
Stacharczyk cautioned, "If we're not there on your scheduled date, leave the cart out and we will get it."
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