Waste Connections responds as garbage piles up in Colorado Springs
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) – Ken Park’s trash cans continue to lie outside his McPherson Avenue home. The trash cans have been outside for days and Park expects them to stay there while he waits for his trash can company to collect them.
He is a customer of Waste Connections and has had ongoing issues with collecting his waste. Leaving your garbage outside has caused problems with rodents and raccoons. Park told KRDO he was “done”.
When KRDO reached out to Waste Connections about the issue, we learned that it was a multi-faceted issue – but it’s one that they are actively working to resolve.
“We see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Paul Breiterman, District Manager for Waste Connections.
Waste Connections acquired Springs Waste in December 2020. Due to several issues related to the merger of the two companies, they just changed routes for all of their customers on September 20. They say this is the biggest diversion in Colorado Springs history. Almost all of their roughly 75,000 customers now have a new pickup day.
Breiterman said safety is a top priority at Waste Connections and this has forced them to make a lot of changes to the way Springs Waste operated before.
“We would have a truck from the old Springs Waste yard going down one street and a truck from the Waste Connections yard going down the same street picking up neighbors. It’s not safe for communities. I mean, we want to limit the 50-ton amount of trucks going through neighborhoods with playing kids, cars, dog walkers or something like that We just don’t want to be in neighborhoods more than we need to, do we? It’s not very efficient either, ”said Breiterman, adding that the new layouts also limit road wear and carbon emissions.
To solve these safety concerns, they had to remove damaged trucks from the streets. They had to implement a policy of random drug testing for their drivers. They have also changed the pay structure for their drivers to encourage safety.
“They were paid daily rate, which means a set amount for the time they worked. The incentive when people are paid daily rate is to hurry up and get the job done as fast as possible, because if you get it done in six hours, or 10 hours, you earn the same amount of money. This compromises safety. We don’t want them to rush, we want to take their time to get the job done, no Do it conscientiously and safely. So one of the first things we did, I think a month ago we changed all these appointment rate drivers in hours with overtime pay, ”said Breiterman.
Their drivers are also required to pass full background checks, as their drivers also operate in school districts, military bases, and neighborhoods.
He also claimed that the company’s “incidence rate” or “Rate I,” which refers to the number of safety incidents occurring per 100 drivers, is one of the lowest in the industry.
“We have one of the lowest, if not the lowest, I-rates in the industry. Springs Waste had an I-rate over 80 – and that means in any given year they will have 80% of their drivers involved in some sort of incident, hitting a mailbox, a wall, a child, another car, all of that is an incident, “he said. “Waste Connections in this market, we operate around 15 or 16. So, above all, we had to ensure safety.
Breiterman also said the entire waste disposal industry is currently facing issues related to the pandemic – and Waste Connections is not immune.
“There is a labor shortage. I see it in all industries at all levels, and it is certainly not hidden in the fact of licensed CDL drivers. We see gasoline prices rising. simply because of the lack of drivers, but with our strict hiring credentials, right? Background checks, safe driving history, drug and alcohol tests, etc., unfortunately , we really limit the number of employees we can employ, but for safety reasons, right? We want good quality people who are safe on the road, and we can trust ” , said Breiterman.
He said his competitors are going through the same thing.
“Other businesses in the city are facing the same challenges. I know there is a competitor in town who has temporarily reduced their waste collection for residential service to every two weeks. There are other companies that regularly have a few ground routes every day in the same way as we do. You know, this is something that we are all going to go through. We see the job market changing, ”he said.
COVID-19 is also pushing Waste Connections back, with some drivers being away either because they have the virus or because they have to care for family members who have contracted it.
Waste Connections operates across much of North America, but all of Colorado Springs operations are local – right down to their call center.
“If someone calls because it’s snowing there, someone answering the phone can look out the window to know exactly what they’re talking about. ‘They know exactly where it is. It’s our community,” he said. said Breiterman.
The flip side is that this is a local operation because they have limited capacity. Their call center experienced volume issues and people complained about having trouble making their way through. To resolve this issue, Breiterman suggests using their app or website to communicate with someone. The website also has a virtual assistant that can help answer some basic questions.