- Waste Pro announced a new partnership with the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) last week to begin interviewing and hiring "offenders under state supervision" for open driver, mechanic and helper positions. If successful, the program could also be replicated in other states.
- "We have to build our own army of drivers and mechanics, because the market has changed so much," said Waste Pro Director of Human Resources Shannon Early in an interview with Waste Dive. This means training eligible applicants, possibly even prior to release, just like they currently do for others. According to Early, Waste Pro already helps drivers obtain their CDL with access to a state-certified testing site and reimbursement for expenses after one year of employment. The company also assists mechanics with obtaining their ASE certification.
- Another retention strategy is to pay drivers $10,000 bonuses after three years without accidents, legitimate customer complaints or property damage. This program has paid out an estimated $4 million to date, with more than 100 recipients in 2017.
Waste Pro had already been attending FDC job fairs in recent years and the agency contacted them about a more formal partnership in Aug. 2017. This program will cover the state's entire probation system, which supervises more than 167,000 people at 130 offices. While no specific job placement targets have been set, Waste Pro has said it's ready to accept as many people as the agency can offer. The FDC sees this as a direct benefit as well.
"The Department's top priority is public safety. This partnership further helps offenders obtain meaningful job placement which will, in turn, reduce recidivism and improve safety across the state," FDC Press Secretary Ashley Cook said in an emailed statement.
This announcement was made at the American Correctional Association's recent annual conference in Orlando, where Waste Pro said it heard potential interest from other state agencies about replicating the model. The FDC said it hasn't received any formal inquiries yet, but Waste Pro is ready to go if that changes.
When asked why such a program hadn't been established sooner, Waste Pro COO Tim Herman noted that hiring applicants with criminal records isn't necessarily new for the industry. Though making it official with a state agency was a new step.
"I don't think on the industry side that we would have been delayed in doing this," said Herman. "I don't think we had the opportunity."
With the federal unemployment rate at its lowest level since 2000, coupled with a growing shortage of drivers with CDLs and certified truck mechanics, the industry is having to get increasingly active with its hiring efforts. This has included heightened outreach to women, veterans and young people, along with higher pay or new bonuses to improve retention.
As Waste Pro continues to grow its business across nine states, the company is experiencing many of the same hiring challenges as its competitors. For CDL drivers that don't want to work on long-haul trucks, it may be more appealing to deliver packages than run collection routes. Among the drivers that do want to make a career in the industry, it's all too common for them to leave for a better offer at a competitor. Whereas if drivers stay in one place they can potentially advance their careers faster and become more integrated into company culture around safety and other initiatives.
"Every waste company would prefer to build their own army," said CMO Ron Pecora, echoing Waste Pro's hiring motto. "That migration that simply happens from one brand to another, I don't think anyone in the industry prefers it that way."