Yard waste collection in Omaha is behind schedule again — and the delays could continue.
In late May, the city fell behind on yard waste because of storm debris and fast-growing lawns.
But the problem now is that the city’s trash hauler, Deffenbaugh Industries, doesn’t have enough trained drivers.
That has put the company about a day behind this week in picking up grass clippings and branches.
“We have faced this issue before, but it has not been this severe,” said Marty Grate, environmental services manager for the City of Omaha. “There just aren’t enough drivers to staff the fleet.”
Deffenbaugh has a $13 million annual contract to collect Omaha’s waste.
Garbage, recyclables and yard waste are picked up by different trucks and drivers. Given the driver shortage, Deffenbaugh has prioritized trash and recycling collection — allowing yard waste pickups to fall behind.
Usually, the company has 18 trucks assigned to yard waste, Grate said. Earlier this week, the number of yard waste trucks dropped to eight.
“If garbage sits out, it can be a health hazard and a nuisance,” Grate said. “Recyclables can be blown around by the wind, so they are the second priority. Yard waste is the least problematic.”
Deffenbaugh hopes to hire an additional 10 commercially licensed drivers.
Grate said the nature of the work is one reason for the driver shortage.
Trash haulers must be able to lift bags between 50 and 100 pounds and hop out of the truck 400 to 700 times a day to assist with the pickups.
Grate also said there is strong competition for potential drivers.
“We have so much construction going on,” he said. “There is high demand. When commercial drivers have the choice between a (trash) truck and construction, they often choose construction.
“Trash pickup is much more strenuous.”
Grate said Deffenbaugh should catch up on yard waste collections by Saturday but may fall behind again if more drivers aren’t hired.
Persons interested in working at Deffenbaugh can call 402-731-3333 or go to deffenbaughinc.com.