Joint Board Matter with Supervisor Smith
May 7, 2019
American Disposal Services
Our county faces a significant health, safety, and community enjoyment problem arising out of the current failures of American Disposal Services, which is the primary private trash service company serving county residents. For the last several weeks, American has failed to make many trash pick-ups in the county. Trash is left on street corners, or in overflowing HOA dumpsters. This open trash attracts rats and other vermin, it smells, and is ugly. The people of Fairfax County deserve better.
American blames a nation-wide problem recruiting employees to drive their trucks. On a national level, the American Trucking Association reports, the U.S. was short approximately 48,000 drivers in 2015. They also said an estimated 890,000 new hires will be needed over the next decade, with the potential for a shortage of 175,000 drivers in 2024 if the trend continues. Last year American was purchased by Waste Connections Inc., the third largest trash company in North America. All trash haulers in the country are facing challenges, but here in Fairfax, after the acquisition by Waste Connections, American’s problems are more acute.
For the last few weeks, county staff have been working with American to help it solve its problem. Staff of the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, Consumer Affairs, and the Health Department have all pitched in. Yesterday the County Executive advised the Board via written memo of the current state of the County’s efforts. We commend our county staff for going above and beyond the call of duty to help American.
It is an important part of our economic system for companies to cut costs to improve economic competition. Consumers benefit from that system. It is also an important part of the system for companies to keep their promises to their customers, and for government to enforce consumer protection statutes and other laws so companies do not engage in unfair competitive tactics that leave customers hanging. We need to investigate whether American is in violation of any consumer protection laws.
Therefore, Madam Chairman, we move that the Board request the County Attorney to prepare for the Board a closed session briefing, to be held during our Board Meeting of May 21. This briefing should include an analysis of all applicable consumer protection statutes, potential claims of fraud, or other legal issues potentially arising out of American’s failure to meet its commitments to our residents, and any options for the county to seek legal remedies. Fairfax County should continue to assist American in providing its promised services, but must also make clear that this is American’s problem, and we expect the company to solve it in the next two weeks, or else the County will be prepared to take whatever legal action may be available.