Driver Shortage FAQ's
Why does my garden waste sometimes get missed?
Although our contractor Biffa and the collection crews are working hard to provide garden collections to our customers; staff vacancies, holidays and sickness means they do not have enough drivers to deliver all the waste services at the moment. The national and europe wide shortage of HGV drivers, means there's a lot of competition for drivers from supermarkets to delivery companies to waste collection. Waste collection is not the most attractive job for HGV drivers and compared with other industries, such as retail, is not the highest paid either.
There are currently 11 vacancies for waste collection drivers at Maidstone and it has only been possible to cover 6 of these with temporary agency staff. In addition to this, driver holidays and sickness means that on some days we don't have enough drivers.
Unfortunately, if we don't have enough drivers for all the services, we must suspend some garden rounds to protect the refuse and recycling collections.
Why is the garden waste service suspended?
Garden waste services are usually suspended first, as they're considered a lower priority than the refuse or recycling collections. It's important to maintain the fortnightly rubbish and recycling collections and weekly food waste collections. Less than half of Maidstone households subscribe to the garden waste service and there are other options for dealing with this waste including home composting. Therefore, it's considered a lower priority than the other waste services.
Has the whole garden waste service been suspended?
No, the garden waste service hasn't been completely suspended and we have at least one round out of four operating each day. On most days we have at least half of the service operating. While this isn't ideal, we feel it's better than the complete suspension of the service which has happened elsewhere across Kent. We're maintaining monthly collections to most residents.
Why is there a shortage of HGV Drivers?
There's currently a national shortage of over 100,000 HGV drivers. This is mainly due to European drivers returning home during the pandemic and due to uncertainty about the EU exit, as well as the loss of over 30,000 HGV test slots during lockdown.
Why can’t you just recruit more drivers?
Biffa have increased the rates of pay and are offering financial bonuses as well as HGV training to attract new drivers and loaders. However, they're still struggling to recruit new drivers. Competition for drivers in Maidstone is extremely high and therefore despite Biffa’s best efforts to make their roles as attractive as possible, it's exceedingly difficult to compete with the retail industry.
What is Biffa doing to recruit drivers and resolve this issue?
Biffa have increased the pay rates for drivers, have introduced financial bonuses and offer HGV training to loaders. Nationally the company have also introduced driving apprenticeships, flexible working opportunities and promoting “Women in Waste” initiatives.
What should I do with my garden waste if it is not collected?
If your garden waste isn't collected, please check our Bin Collection Updates page to confirm if your collection was suspended. This page is updated daily with collection information:
When your collection is suspended, we'll prioritise your service on the next scheduled collection. However, we're very much reliant on the number of drivers we have available each morning.
If your bin is already full, you could consider home composting any additional garden waste. For more information about composting visit our Composting page.
Alternatively, garden waste can be taken to the Household Waste Recycling Centre at Tovil.
I pay for my garden waste to be collected; will I get a refund if the service is suspended?
Extending residents’ garden waste subscriptions is currently under review. Delaying this decision will allow us to take account of service provision over a longer period. Although the service doesn't offer a guaranteed number of collections per year, it's only suspended in extreme circumstances which currently includes the national driver shortage.
My garden subscription is due for renewal, can I have an extension now?
Extending resident’s garden waste subscriptions is currently under review and a decision will be made later in the year. We're not currently able to extend individual subscriptions as we need to take a consistent approach to those affected by service disruption.
If you renew your subscription now, if the decision is taken to extend subscribers’ accounts, the extension will be applied to the new subscription.
Alternatively, you can decide not to renew your account and your service will stop.
Why can't I have a refund?
It's not possible to provide refunds for the collections which have been suspended. The annual charge is applied from the day the subscription was first started and covers the provision of the bin, its delivery and any maintenance or replacements. The service also doesn't guarantee the number of collections per year. The service is still being provided and all residents have only had one or two collections suspended over the past 3 months. While we're considering extending subscribers’ subscriptions, refunds won't be offered.
Refunds are time consuming, expensive, and difficult to process. Therefore, providing refunds of approximately £1.50 for one suspended collection to over 30,000 subscribers isn't viable.
At £45 per year, the service remains exceptionally good value as the cost for a commercial contractor to empty a 240 litre bin is in the region of £8 per collection.
Will other services be affected by this?
We're working closely with Biffa to minimize the impact of the shortages on residents’ services. This includes suspending different garden rounds to prioritise those not collected on the previous cycle. This also enables us to protect the rubbish and recycling collections, which we hope won't be affected by the current challenges.