Routeware makes specialized software for the waste management industry, including fleet management, back office, and customer communications.

Online Reviews: Your Customers are Talking…and Municipalities are Listening

Reading reviews from unhappy customers can feel like the five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Customers may start with denial: “On the whole, I have no problem with them overall, but…” says one resident who goes on to share their disappointment with a lapse in their solid waste service. The second stage, anger, is often punctuated by multiple exclamation points: “Terrible customer service!!!!!”

The third stage is bargaining: “I’m ready to notify the news station and maybe get a response them,” threatens a resident who failed to get a resolution after multiple phone calls. That can be followed by depression: “My neighborhood looks like a mess with all the trash left behind everywhere.” And finally, acceptance: “Unfortunately, I have no choice of trash companies…” These are all real reviews of waste haulers that were posted online this year.

While many residents have no choice when it comes to trash haulers, that doesn’t prevent them from loudly and publicly expressing their unhappiness. Online comments can influence contract renewals as well as future contract wins, and you can bet municipal decision makers – and competitors – are paying attention. Residents and businesses that do have a choice of solid waste companies will sometimes use social media to encourage others to make the switch along with them, creating a herd mentality.

Better tools for service they’ll write about

It’s easy to shrug and say everyone is just complaining a lot these days. But generally people don’t turn to social media with their gripes until they feel like they’ve run out of options. When calls to customer service don’t resolve an issue, or people feel they’re not being heard, you’ll see comments like this one: “Five phone calls and (my) trash has still not been picked up! It’s about to get dropped at their front door.”

Most customers will give a business quite a bit of latitude if they feel like someone is trying to fix their problem. Customers call about issues they think should be simple to resolve, and their frustration increases each time they have to call back or each week they see no action. A look at online reviews from locations throughout the U.S. revealed complaints that can be solved with fleet automation and back office solutions:

Where’s my cart? Whether it’s a cart for a new resident, a bin size change, or replacing a damaged cart, it can be pretty annoying to have waste piling up with nowhere to put it. One customer posted: “It’s like an act of congress to get a new trash can.” If this issue feels all too familiar, it’s probably time to improve work order management so tasks are assigned, completed, and verified with customer service in mind.

Solution: You’ll increase efficiency and responsiveness with Routeware’s back office solutions. Create, assign, and dispatch work orders quickly and easily to make sure carts are delivered when and where customers need them.

You missed! When the trucks have come and gone, the last thing a resident wants to do is roll a completely full cart back up the driveway and wait another week or two for pickup. Sometimes the driver makes an honest mistake, and sometimes the carts are obscured from their view. But when the customer calls, they don’t want to be told – without evidence – that it’s their fault. Sure, some customers try to have a sense of humor about it: They have the nerve to tell us (our cans) weren’t out or they didn’t see them…Quite concerning that they have someone driving that can’t see bright blue and green cans…,” but that’s not always going to be the case: “I don’t like being called a liar…I’m telling you they missed my trash can!!!” (Those exclamation points again).

Solution: Collaborate with customers to solve pickup issues when you have high-quality cameras onboard every truck. There’s no need to debate cart placement or set-out timing when service personnel can share photos or video with drivers or customers, accurately identifying what caused a missed cart. When customers are able to see things through the eyes of their driver, they’ll be able to choose a better place for their cart. Supervisors can also use video to help drivers increase efficiency and accuracy.

What’s taking so long? Requests to pick up bulky materials or special items are handled most efficiently by a truck that’s already in the area. But that requires coordinating work orders and sending work orders in real time. Even drivers get frustrated when they return to base only to be sent back out to a neighborhood they already visited.

Solution: With Routeware’s fleet automation technology communicating directly to onboard computers, changes that happen day-of can easily be integrated into a driver’s route. A customer who avoids having to haul their own waste is a happy customer – even if their pup feels otherwise: “I’m not missing the trip to the landfill…However, my dog is missing the cookie the nice cashiers would give her each trip.”

Problem solving means more positivity

Negative online reviews not only impact your ability to gain and retain valued accounts, they can also impact employee morale. On the other hand, delighted customers will often go out of their way to post positive comments, especially when an employee fixes a problem or handles a sticky issue with grace. Solid waste companies have received online compliments that often called out drivers and service personnel by name, including this one: Apart from being incredibly professional, funny, and super sweet, May went beyond the call of duty and resolved the issue, getting my recycle picked up.”

With Routeware, you can give your team modern tools that will help them deliver the kind of service they strive for, so customers won’t feel like their only option is to express their grievances online.

Why Drivers Choose Haulers who use Modern Technology

The driver shortage is real, and it’s impacting every industry that relies on wheels to get things from point A to point B. The American Trucking Association estimates that in 2021 the truck driver shortage hit a historic high of just over 80,000 drivers. With high turnover, recruitment and training challenges, and an overall tight labor market, the driver shortage is expected to balloon over the next decade.

The only silver lining for the solid waste industry is data showing that drivers are gravitating toward short-haul jobs where they can end the day in their own home spending quality time with family. But with no shortage of options for last-mile hauling and delivery positions, employers need to look at every aspect of the job in order to attract and retain a dedicated team.

It’s more than a paycheck

Driver pay is increasing, and some haulers are offering attractive bonuses to lure experienced team members. But compensation is only one part of the equation. It’s long been understood that people see their jobs as more than a paycheck. On a fundamental level, employees want to feel that they’re part of a team doing purposeful work that’s valued by the community. That means making sure drivers understand their role in keeping the community clean, supporting composting and recycling, and meeting environmental goals. 

When drivers have lots of options, they’ll choose to work for a company where they feel supported, and where they have modern tools to do the job. They like having a sense of control that allows them to make judgements within clear parameters so they can take responsibility for providing good service. And they also want to know that their supervisors are backing them up with coaching and feedback that will help them be more efficient and productive.

Offering drivers higher and higher compensation can be counterproductive, as it may cause valuable team members to move jobs just to chase dollars. An investment in technology adds a level of driver support that makes the job more difficult to walk away from.

Modern tools for today’s drivers

The tight labor market means drivers are evaluating multiple options for employment. Offering benefits beyond competitive pay helps you keep service levels high by reducing staffing shortages. Back office and in-cab technology gives drivers tools that help them do their jobs while knowing they’re supported and safe.

Modern routing – You don’t want to hire an experienced driver and make them ride along for weeks while they learn their route. And if you hand a paper map to a younger driver, they may ask which century you’re from. Smart fleet routing with in-cab GPS guides drivers through their routes turn-by-turn so they can get up to speed quickly and focus on serving the neighborhood. When there are changes to a route – even last minute – they can be communicated directly to the onboard computer, decreasing time wasted on missed carts and go-backs.

Service support – When drivers are on the streets, they’re being asked to make judgements at every stop. Is a cart inaccessible? Overloaded? Contaminated? And if they pass it by, what are the consequences? Onboard cameras remove the guesswork. When drivers encounter a problem, they can capture an image, automatically note the location, and move on with confidence. Photos become immediately available to the customer service team so they can work with residents to bring carts into compliance.

Safety and training – Onboard video keeps drivers safe and supported on the streets. Not only do supervisors get tangible documentation of accidents that can be used for insurance claims, multi-angle video provides great information to support driver coaching. Video helps drivers know they’re being supported when a situation can be evaluated based on more than verbal accounts. 

Helping the team, work – Smart routing means drivers are never alone out there. When a truck runs into trouble – like a mechanical issue – an adjacent crew can be assigned to finish the route. The back office simply selects uncollected addresses on the digital map and pushes the list to a different driver or helper truck. Teams that can back each other up with the help of technology don’t just create happier customers. Drivers embrace the tools that are making their jobs more efficient so their last stop can be home, on time for dinner.

Sharing successes – Better technology for customer service, fleet automation, and route optimization also provides more insights into increased efficiencies, recycling and environmental achievements, and customer satisfaction. Sharing this data engages the entire team and helps them see how their job makes a difference in the community. It’s remarkable how many employees will leave a job that pays well if they don’t feel valued.

An investment in technology is an investment, but it can often be more than justified by reduced turnover, better driver recruitment, and higher overall job satisfaction. Contact us so we can show you how tools from Routeware will help you hire and retain a motivated team.

Six Fuel Efficiency Hacks for Haulers

It’s impossible to control your budget when two of your major line items are skyrocketing. Solid waste haulers are being squeezed by labor shortages and increasing compensation costs on the one hand, and eye-popping fuel costs on the other. Technology provides some opportunities for addressing the truck driver shortage. It can also help increase the efficiency of your fleet in this time of runaway fuel costs.

U.S. diesel prices are the highest they’ve been in decades, having increased more than two dollars since May 2021. With the average solid waste truck traveling 130 miles per day at just 3 miles per gallon, it doesn’t take a degree in mathematics to see how the costs add up. The most promising long-term solution is an all-electric fleet, but that’s still a few years off for many municipalities.

New York City is already testing all-electric refuse vehicles, and there are plenty of advantages to look forward to. Electric is a good fit for vehicles running regular, predictable routes that return to base at day’s end where they can recharge. Fleet managers are also impressed by the regenerative braking that energizes the truck’s battery and the way it glides quietly through neighborhoods.

Upfront costs of electric trucks can be up to 50 percent more than diesel, but savings will pay off, especially if diesel prices remain high. Still, changing out an entire fleet takes time, and that includes installing the necessary charging stations.

Take a bite out of fuel costs with greater efficiency

Today’s budget-busting diesel costs need solutions you can implement today. So today we’re sharing six fuel efficiency hacks for wringing savings out of every gallon of diesel, and a bonus tip for recouping costs:

#1 Maintenance makes a difference: Attention to vehicle maintenance saves fuel. Start every day with proper tire pressure by including a tire check as part of the pre-trip inspection process. Mechanics can also help increase fuel efficiency by making sure trucks are in alignment, topped off with the proper grade of engine oil, and equipped with fresh air filters on a regular schedule.

#2 Drive down fuel costs: Smart driving habits can also help maximize fuel efficiency. Drivers can do their part by switching off engines when not in use, staying within speed limits, reducing hard braking, and avoiding low gear and high RPMs. Turning off air conditioning and heat during mild weather will also increase the truck’s efficiency.

#3 The shortest distance between points: Efficient routing that takes into account each neighborhood’s unique dynamics will make sure your fleet is maximizing every turn. Waste-specific route planning software from Routeware doesn’t just optimize street miles. It allows you to incorporate on-the-ground feedback like school bus and train schedules so you can reduce idling times.

#4 Route and reroute: Route optimization isn’t a one-and-done activity. Municipalities are constantly morphing, so routes can quickly be thrown out of balance. Frequent manual re-routing is too cumbersome, and new routes can be slow to implement with paper maps. Route optimization can happen more frequently with Routeware digital route optimization, and new routes can be sent directly to drivers with GPS-guided instructions.

#5 Build team work with communication: Missed carts can be a real efficiency-killer if a driver isn’t informed that a customer called until they’re back at base. A fully connected fleet using in-cab tablets for up-to-the-minute communications allows service personnel to deliver customer requests to the nearest truck, or dispatch a helper vehicle. In-cab digital communications also show their value when a truck goes out of service. Routes can be sent to adjacent teams who can then provide support.

#6 Let your citizens pitch in: You’ve got people sorting paper, cans, plastic, and compost into their designated bins, and they do it because they care – about the environment and a sustainable community. Citizens can be part of the fuel economy solution, too. For example, you can modify schedules to pick up refuse bins less often. This will reduce routes and encourage better recycling. Residents will appreciate learning how this simple change reduces emissions in their neighborhood.

Bonus: If you’re considering adding fuel subsidies in addition to tackling fuel efficiency, you’ll need a robust back office and billing system (ERP) that’s customer built for the waste industry. Routeware has a solution that allows you to build in fuel surcharges with the click of a button.

So, while you’re waiting for your brand new all-electric refuse trucks to be delivered (it won’t be long now!), smart planning with the right technology can help make a dent in your fuel costs today.

The ABCs of ESG for Earth Day: Implications for waste and recycling haulers

The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, mobilized 20 million Americans to focus attention on an increasingly polluted planet. Earth Day transformed public attitudes about environmental issues, and inspired transformative legislation. The Environmental Protection Agency was created in December, 1970, and the 70s also saw the passing of the Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

Over the past half century, people have come to understand how intertwined humans are with the environment. They’ve adopted habits like recycling and water conservation, buying smarter appliances and vehicles, and finding ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Companies are also getting pressure to do more, and not just from environmental groups. Customers, employees, and investors are asking for tangible environmental and social-benefit results backed by performance metrics. The waste management industry is in a good position to respond.

Environmental, Social, and Governance Reporting goes Mainstream

Earth Day has gone from a movement to an imperative. And companies have evolved from reluctant participants to environmental problem-solvers. A relatively new concept in the investment field, ESG reporting, has helped elevate discussions about environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues and put them on par with financial balance sheets.

A company’s ESG report provides a quantifiable way to communicate to investors about the impacts of broader global and societal issues. It includes both the risks and opportunities the company faces, and discloses actions they’re taking to respond. ESG reporting includes qualitative and quantitative metrics tracked over time. Investment firms are increasingly asking for this kind of reporting so they can be responsive to their investors and assess the long-term viability of companies prior to investing.

One investment firm leading the way in asking for ESG reporting is BlackRock. In January 2020, BlackRock’s CEO, Larry Fink, stated, “A company’s ability to manage environmental, social, and governance matters demonstrates the leadership and good governance that is so essential to sustainable growth.”

Investors Care about Environmental Impact

PwC surveyed 325 investors globally in 2021. Nearly 80% said ESG was an important factor in their investment decision-making. Almost 70% of those surveyed thought ESG factors should figure into executive compensation targets, and about 50% expressed a willingness to divest from companies that didn’t take sufficient action on ESG issues.

While the same survey found that the majority of investors are only willing to accept slightly lower investment returns for better ESG results, companies are nonetheless facing pressure to assess and track these metrics. With more companies calling attention to ESG goals and reporting, more investors will begin asking which companies are leading and which are lagging in their attention to sustainability issues.

As the waste management industry consolidates through mergers and acquisitions, companies with broader reach and visibility will be expected to demonstrate plans to address climate-caused disasters, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and the social and reputational impacts of operations. In short, investors won’t be satisfied with environmental protection that only responds to regulatory guidelines. And it’s not enough to launch a promotional campaign in honor of Earth Day.

Investors – and the broader community – now understand climate change as an existential global and  financial risk. And they want proof that companies are being good stewards of their money and of the world in which they operate.

ESG Reporting: Where to begin?

The waste and recycling news site, Waste Dive, has created a tracker of waste management companies that are issuing annual sustainability reports. It outlines ESG focus areas that companies are looking at, and will be updated as new information becomes available. As of March 24, 2022, the Waste Dive tracker includes seven companies, details their environmental goals, and shows how they plan to meet, measure, and report on their targets.

A key part of ESG reporting is to identify and disclose potential risks and opportunities related to environmental issues, including climate change. Risks can be financial, operational, and regulatory, with impacts that can lead to reduced stakeholder confidence. But there are also opportunities to cut costs, expand services, and enhance company image. Here’s an overview of what waste management companies have come up with so far:

Environmental, social, and governance risks include:

  • Costs of complying with often inconsistent climate and emissions regulations for landfills.
  • Possible future carbon pricing systems that don’t recognize solid waste combustion as a form of greenhouse gas mitigation.
  • Carbon taxes on fleet vehicles.
  • Weather events that impact landfill operations and construction projects.
  • Storms that damage facilities, disrupt supply chains, or down energy grids.

Potential opportunities from ESG initiatives include:

  • Revenue from enhanced landfill gas-to-energy systems.
  • Revenue from higher recycling volumes.
  • Cost reductions for compressed natural gas fleet expansion.
  • Favorable community response to a cleaner-burning fleet.
  • Potential extreme weather event clean-up contracts for resilient waste management companies.
  • Increased shareholder value for implementing ESG.

As waste management companies continue to work with investors and the community to report on sustainability efforts, additional opportunities will arise. Just as Earth Day 1970 was just the beginning of the global environmental movement, these early ESG reports will help define new ways the industry can respond to climate change and the community.

How Companies are Defining Targets, Measurements, and Plans

Because it’s a relatively new concept in corporate governance, ESG has many different reporting frameworks. Currently, companies can choose which standards to use, and some rely on several. This makes it difficult to compare information across companies, but there appears to be a trend toward consolidation of standards organizations.

Measurement frameworks currently being used in waste management include:

  • Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) – A global environmental disclosure system that supports companies, cities, states, and regions to measure and manage their risks and opportunities on climate change, water security, and deforestation.
  • Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) – Created by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) to develop recommendations on the types of information companies should disclose to support investors, lenders, and insurance underwriters to appropriately assess risks related to climate change.
  • Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) – An independent, international organization headquartered in Amsterdam that helps businesses and other organizations take responsibility for their impacts by providing them with a global common language.
  • Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASD) – Standards maintained under the auspices of the Value Reporting Foundation that guide the disclosure of financially material sustainability information by companies to their investors. Available for 77 industries, including a waste management.
  • Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) – A partnership between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) created to show companies and financial institutions how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

In November 2021 at the COP26 climate conference, the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation Trustees announced the creation of a new ESG standard-setting board, the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB). This March, ISSB issued their first draft proposal for baseline sustainability disclosure standards. This means measurement standards and methodologies are still under discussion, allowing industry leaders to weigh in on the best metrics for their purposes.

Taking Action on ESG

Waste management companies that are reporting ESG are measuring the greenhouse gas benefits of recycling, renewable energy production, landfill carbon sequestration, and reduced fleet emissions. Some of the announced plans to reach ESG targets include:

  • Expanding landfill gas-to-energy projects that produce renewable natural gas (RNG).
  • Operating facilities with renewable energy including RNG, solar, and geothermal.
  • Increased processing of recyclables, recovered material, and organics.
  • Following LEED building standards for new facilities.
  • Reducing fleet emissions by using renewable or alternative fuels.
  • Fleet efficiency through better routing and maintenance.

While it might seem that sustainable practices are more likely to increase costs or decrease profitability, the opposite can be true once a program is up and running. For example, changes at the fleet level can have a number of tangible financial benefits. Renewable or alternative fuels, along with attention to regular vehicle maintenance, will not only decrease emissions, but also costs. Efficient routing can then become a savings multiplier. Haulers using technology to optimize routes are saving on the cost of fuel, vehicle wear-and-tear, and personnel.

Here are some ways waste haulers are implementing Routeware tools to help them improve operations and gather data to meet ESG reporting requirements:

  • Route optimization with EasyRoute – Huge benefits for better serving the community while balancing workloads, reducing overtime, and maximizing vehicle allocation are just the beginning. EasyRoute helps achieve ESG goals by helping companies identify and implement efficiencies that tangibly reduce emissions and fuel costs.

  • Fleet automation with Routeware – Reduce time on the road with faster, safer pickups. Routeware also increases accuracy which equals fewer go-backs. With the ability to bill for extra or overweight pick-ups, customers get feedback that encourages them to pay more attention to recycling.
  • Recycling engagement with ReCollect – It’s well understood that the least earth-friendly
    route to the landfill is through the recycling center. When communities use ReCollect, more people recycle and they’re more knowledgeable about the right things to sort. ESG goals can be met by diverting more from the landfill, increasing tons of recycled materials, and decreasing contamination.

Since it was first celebrated back in 1970, Earth Day expanded to Earth Month. But global attention to the risks of climate change makes it imperative that companies work to reduce their environmental impact all year long. ESG reporting provides a framework for responding to investors that also helps companies identify solutions and target opportunities that tie directly to operational and financial sustainability.