September 28, 2021
Metro Service Group Update on Sanitation Collections
I’d like to take this opportunity to provide you with an update on what we at Metro Service Group have been doing to address the driver shortage our company and all sanitation companies in many parts of the country have been facing through Covid, and now, locally, since Hurricane Ida. While we have had significant shortages and delays, based on the tonnage of waste we have collected since September 2nd, (approximately 6500 tons) and the average number of trucks we have in the field each day to run our routes, I believe and am hopeful that we have turned the corner and are getting back into a routine that is reliable and consistent.
Again, let me apologize to you and your family for the frustrations may you have likely had regarding the delays in collecting your household waste. Nothing disappoints the Metro team more than being behind on our routes and adding to your frustrations, especially in these very challenging times.
If you’ve seen the news or watched city council meetings you know our challenges are the same as many cities and sanitation companies are having nationwide. New Orleans and Metro Service Group are not alone in this regard. Regionally, Jefferson Parish and Baton Rouge have been struggling with these same problems. While this likely won’t make you feel any better about what is happening locally, it does help provide needed context that many people have overlooked or ignored.
The root of the problem is an absence of drivers rather than an absence of “hoppers” for each truck. By law, all drivers must meet certain standards, have a commercial driver’s license and pass company tests to qualify for employment. The pool of interested and qualified applicants is limited at the beginning of the employment process. Still, as a testament to the good work of our hoppers, we were recently able to increase their pay (as we were able to do for drivers several months ago), and we are pleased to have done so.
We also continue to be challenged by the impact of Covid. While we have encouraged our drivers to become vaccinated some have chosen not to and periodically Covid results in unexpected short staffing. Hurricane Ida has also displaced many of our employees who are slow to return to the city and the workplace. Prior to Ida and despite the pandemic, Metro had made significant progress in on-time pick-ups over the past 3-4 months. Complaints to Metro and the city’s 311 line had dropped and we were positioned to fully turn the corner and get back to high performance business as usual.
Lastly and related directly to Ida is the sheer volume of waste to be collected. Not since Hurricane Katrina has the volume been higher, helping to make a perfect storm of challenges that we and all the local sanitation companies in Orleans and around south Louisiana are struggling to overcome. Prior to the City taking belated action to open a convenient waste transfer station – an action we and the other local sanitation contractors requested --- our trucks were forced to halt collections every few blocks and make a 2-3 hour trip to the city’s Avondale landfill to offload, tying up valuable time that could be spent collecting your trash.
Broadly, these are the steps we have taken to restore timely pick-up in your neighborhood:
While I personally know that having missed or delayed trash pick-ups is not acceptable for any resident, I thank you for your patience and pledge that we will continue to aggressively work through these challenges.
Jimmie M. Woods, Sr.