There is no doubt that our industry will continue to be resilient and always find the bright spots in periods of gloom. One thing about our industry is that no matter what colors you wear, we are all in this together. When we work together to share ideas to make our workplace safer, it is a win for everyone.

By John Paglia III

2020 is finally behind us. A year that will undoubtedly mark the history books as a year to remember. Rather than rehash all the negativity that it brought, let’s focus on some of the bright spots that we will absorb moving forward in our daily practice. It forced us to pay extra attention to the little things like work/personal hygiene and other sanitization practices that we all have implemented daily. These practices that we have adopted will continue to raise costs, but it is a cost worth raising. By daily sanitization and providing masks, sanitizers, and other protective equipment, employees feel protected and we have noticed a healthier work force. We are finding that the problem resides when they return to their personal lives—have those around them adopted these same principles of protection?

Being Engaged
The waste industry from a private sector standpoint has always been about personalized customer service. Close interaction with your customers and on-demand service are basic principles in the building blocks of success. COVID-19 no doubt made executing this same service level a challenge to say the least. No longer do people want to meet face-to-face, many choose to do business at a distance. Operating costs have climbed significantly due to several factors, but the most common are: lack of labor, supply and demand of products related to our business, employee turnover, and preventive daily disinfecting and sanitization of office and fleet. These really came to the forefront of day-to-day challenges during 2020. However, the industry was able to adapt and adjust for some of these prior to 2020.

With COVID and its workplace restrictions looming while seeking a diagnosis or being out due to a positive result, we basically managed the work force day-to-day. We can attempt as an industry to continue automation, but at the end of the day no matter what, a human being for the foreseeable future must be behind the wheel and the controls. Keeping that employee safe, healthy and engaged is no easy task. Prior to COVID, it was normal for us to have about 10 to 15 percent of our drivers trained as swing drivers. Since mid-year 2020, we decided to up this threshold to 30 to 40 percent or even higher if needed. The problem is, we have at times been unsuccessful at reaching this goal for long periods of time, because, let’s face it, there is already a shortage of qualified CDL drivers in the country, let alone ones qualified to the high standard we set for the waste industry. To give that same great customer service, this is one of many costs we are forced to absorb to continue that same service level for our customers.

Continuing to Be Resilient
There is no doubt that our industry will continue to be resilient and always find the bright spots in periods of gloom. One thing about our industry is that no matter what colors you wear, we are all in this together. When we work together to share ideas to make our workplace safer, it is a win for everyone. Safety has now extended past the wheels and tires of the industry, and focused on maintenance practices, repair shops, office/call centers, landfills, and transfer and recycling facilities to make the attention to detail the greatest it has ever been. No stone has been left unturned and the unity within companies are at all time highs. Everyone loves to feel appreciated by words, but when actions follow words, it is a win for everyone involved. My wish for 2021 is for our country to unite, put this virus behind us and enjoy life as an American. It is a tall order but let’s lead by example and let others see how our industry operates day in and day out, working side-by-side for one greater cause. Stay safe and well everyone. | WA

John Paglia III is a 4th generation garbage man. Before he climbed the ranks to become Florida Express Environmental’s General Manager, he had a successful career in college and professional athletics. John has been around the garbage industry since his car seat days. Currently, John is focused on growing his company and offering the highest level of customer service and prolonging the world we live in today. John wakes up every day knowing the impact professional haulers have on their community is far greater than most realize. He can be reached at (352) 629-4349, e-mail John3@floridaexpress.us or visit www.floridaexpress.us.

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