by Jessica Cearfoss
Jessica Cearfoss, Business Development Manager in the Public Works Sector, discusses waste collection during the COVID-19 crisis and what the industry could look like in the future.
What are haulers talking about these days?
Safety and efficiency.
For sure, safety is at the top of their list. Safety of their crews and concerns that staff would be more likely to get exposed to coronavirus. Exposure concerns required adjustments to how crews are assigned (i.e. how many people could ride in one vehicle). There were concerns about minimizing exposure to garbage and surfaces because there was such uncertainty as to how long the virus could live on plastic – like handles of carts – or plastic bags, cardboard, etc.
Efficiency is also big. Operating efficiently through all of the changes is important to the haulers I talk to.
How have things changed?
Residential collection is up, but commercial and roll-off are down. Everyone is looking at this as a temporary situation, but they still have to make changes. Recycling and organics collection was off as well, in part to minimize exposure to the staff working on the routes and in the sorting facilities.
Haulers are looking at major route changes, especially when it comes to commercial collection. We’ve heard that some commercial routes are down 50% in number of collections. Collection from businesses, offices, shops and restaurants are all down due to closures.
I just read a report from Huntington, West Virginia that residential collection is up about a ton per route. The residents are eating at home, ordering more online and they have time to clean out their basements. The workers there are asking people to help by bagging as much as possible, breaking down boxes and anything else to help reduce the amount they have to handle.
What are haulers doing about the current situation?
The smartest haulers are making changes as quickly as they can. Experienced RouteSmart users are busy right now. The routers are reviewing commercial routes and making changes quickly, either resequencing routes or creating solutions with fewer trucks going out on certain days.
RouteSourcing is another way our client community is making changes. One of the big west coast haulers recently came to us looking for a quick, collaborative RouteSourcing effort to help them develop these temporary routes that allocated their fleet differently. Our client services team has industry experts that, with RouteSourcing, can take the reins and speed up a rerouting project.
To those around the country who’ve shown interest in taking the same approach, I’d wholeheartedly recommend letting us help make adjustments for the interim period.
What’s going to happen next?
Things will eventually pick up again, but the questions are…how long will that take and how can our clients operate efficiently along the way?
I think most of them foresee being able to transition back to more regular routes as businesses open up again and the need for collection services gets back to normal.