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Ride along with a Red River driver as she picks up trash

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - It's been a rocky first six months at  Red River Waste Solutions. After some hiccups the company officials said they are back on track.

Since the company took over trash collection in January, there have been more than 18,000 complaints to the city of Fort Wayne's 311 line.

15 Finds Out wanted to learn what a typical day is like for trash collectors. Officials at Red River organized a ride-along with one of the drivers.

"I never imagined myself being a trash woman," said Camellia Taylor. 

Taylor started working at Red River in January. She is one of two women on the job. Drivers make  anywhere from 800 to 1000 stops each route per day.

"My day starts about 5:30 in the morning and ends whenever I complete my route," said Taylor. "We're all there to do the job. You've got to get the job done whether you're a woman or a man. It doesn't matter."

Taylor is responsible for picking up recycling. She said she has her route down to a science now but it wasn't always easy.  It took her about a month to really get in the swing of things, she said.

"Learning to maneuver the arm in and out with the cans...I had to get out a whole bunch of times," she said. "If you dump the trash can you have to go pick all the stuff back up. So yeah, it was challenging."

Although her automated truck does a lot of the heavy work, she does have to hop out from time to time which can slow down her progress. 

"I have to get out if the cans are too close where my arm can't fit in or if it looks like something that's not recyclable," she said. " I have to tag it an let the customer know I can't pick up the container. Or even if I knock down a bin."

Officials want homeowners to know that typically when a trash collector leaves the neighborhood before the route is finished, the driver is likely going to empty a full truck and will pick up where they left off.

Taylor said it is important to leave some space between trash and recycling cans instead of placing them side by side, make sure trash and recyclables are in correct bin and to always have the bin out by 6 a.m. on trash day. 

Taylor is one of about 45 employees a Red River Waste Solutions. That is the ideal number of staff for a city the size of Fort Wayne. However, that was not the case about a month ago, said Steven Pauli, Regional Manager for Red River Waste Solutions.

Understaffing likely led to a slew of missed trash pickups triggering thousands of complaints, he said. It is a problem plaguing the country.

"There was a labor shortage of drivers," he said. It's actually nationwide and we experienced that [in Fort Wayne] as well.  So we were bringing drivers in from other locations. They were skilled drivers but they didn't know Fort Wayne."

Pauli has been with the company about a month but has 25 years experience in trash collection industry. When he came on board he said there were 13 job openings. Now the company needs to hire about three more drivers.

Taylor is one of the company's original hires and after just six months she has been promoted to team lead. She said everyday she strives to do better than the day before.

"We're doing the best that we can to appease the city," she said. "With anything new you're going to have hiccups. So it's just patience. You have to be patient. And we're getting it together."

January had the highest number of complaints with more than 5,122 calls for missed pickups. In May there were about 3,612 calls and from June 1 through June 28 there have been  3,770 hundred complaints.

  • Jan. – 5,122
  • Feb. – 2,091
  • Mar. – 2,390
  • Apr. – 2,169
  • May – 3,612
  • June 1 through June 28 – 3,770

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