Recyclers increasingly face transportation issues due to an ongoing labor shortage, particularly for drivers.
Job openings often exceed the supply of qualified workers in the waste and recycling industry because laborers take jobs in other industries.
A driver shortage has become so acute that the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) recently included plans to “join forces with other industries to foster a new generation of truck drivers” in its first comprehensive transportation policy.
ISRI passed the transportation policy “to recognize and address the challenges of transporting scrap materials to the scrapyards and to the customer in a timely, and cost-efficient way.” A driver shortage contributes to such challenges by delaying deliveries and increasing costs.
“By 2026, the solid waste collection industry will have 14,200 new jobs for collection drivers and riders; 1,900 new jobs for diesel service technicians and mechanics; and 300 new jobs for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers.according to a National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) policy position on the driver shortage and workforce development.
“A tightening labor market with more job openings than potential qualified employees will only exacerbate the situation as demand for these positions grows.”
NWRA supports workforce development efforts such as authorizing the use of federal grants to pay for students to attend trade and vocational schools and helping military veterans become commercial drivers.
“Driving for the industry offers numerous advantages such as rising wages, a five-day work week, set daily work schedules and being able to return home at the end of each day’s shift, unlike long-haul drivers. Despite all this, our industry’s companies are
increasingly struggling to find enough CDL drivers,” NAWRA states.
Recyclers face challenges with a labor shortage among non-drivers as well. Federal immigration policies could make finding and keeping employees more difficult.
Many of the recycling industry’s 156,000 employees are immigrants, according to ISRI’s Advocacy Agenda for 2019. Workers affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program have lived “under a cloud of uncertainty,” ISRI stated. So, the organization has included workforce and immigration issues among its priorities for this year.