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Labor shortage and supply chain issues linked to Syracuse's trash collection woes

Trash day on Ackerman Ave.
Scott Willis
Trash day on Ackerman Ave. Crews are now working as late as 6 pm to keep page with trash and recycling collection.

Syracuse city officials said the challenges of keeping up with trash and recycling collection can largely be blamed on supply chain issues and the labor shortage. The city has six new garbage trucks on backorder that are expected to arrive next month. Meanwhile, there aren’t enough mechanics to fix the broken ones. CEO Corey Driscoll Dunham said they’re hoping to address the labor shortfall by discussing mechanic compensation in contract negotiations.

“It is industry-wide. If you look at car dealerships, Centro, the state, mechanics are in high demand right now, and so we want to do what we can to try and meet that demand and make sure we have adequate staffing for the needs that we have,” Dunham said.

The city has also added a shift for its sanitation crews to catch up with the collection. In addition to the six new “packers,” as the trucks are called, Dunham said the city’s fleet manager has scoured the nation to find more that can be delivered in far less than a year.

“Getting creative in terms of how they’re built. Buying the chassis first and then sending it off to a body shop to put the packer body on there. So, we believe that we will have four additional packers, which would mean a total of four new packers before the end of this year,” Dunham said.

She hopes the new equipment will provide a much-needed boost to sanitation operations, much like ten new plows did with snow removal a couple of years ago. Mayor Ben Walsh credits the fleet manager with slowly and steadily improving equipment procurement and maintenance.

“When we came in there was no active fleet management citywide in city government. I think every department did the best that they could, but that was why we felt so strongly that we needed to hire a fleet manager to manage the fleet across departments,” Walsh said.

Meanwhile, the city is also pursuing a longer-term, comprehensive overhaul of its garbage collection operations, including route efficiency and semi-automated trucks.