Could a Four-Day Workweek Benefit Your Portable Restroom Business?

A Kansas City PRO’s struggle to cover more routes with fewer trucks leads to unexpected results

Could a Four-Day Workweek Benefit Your Portable Restroom Business?

Part owner Gary Springer oversees an Outdoor Restrooms Inc. technician pumping restrooms at Kansas Speedway. (Photos by Denny Medley)

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A four-day workweek has led to thorough service and increased quality of life for technicians at Kansas City, Missouri’s Outdoor Restrooms Inc.

About three years ago, general manager and part owner Jeff Abbott moved his team of service drivers to four 10-hour days per week. It started because they only had four trucks and enough demand for five routes, but even now that they have trucks for all their drivers, they have continued with the four-10 schedule.

“There’s a perception benefit — we have five routes, but we only have four trucks,” Abbott says. “That’s how it started, and then it just progressed into a benefit that drivers can have a three-day weekend after working an hour or two extra each day.”

Abbott started ORI with his father before taking on partners. In the early days of the company, he was running routes himself, often 80-plus hours a week, so he knows the strain of burnout after taking on long stretches of work.

“We didn’t want to work our guys 60 hours. I’ve done it: I’ve worked 60, 70, 80 hours a week when we first started, and I know it’s miserable. Your quality of life, in general, is not better,” Abbott says. “They may not take a day off for 21 days — it’s their right to work if they want, and wear themselves out, but I know what it’s like out there. The four-10 kind of forces them to take that day off and get rejuvenated.”

Most of his guys will request either Monday or Friday off, so the three-day weekend becomes a standard perk. But another thing Abbott appreciates about the four-day schedule is versatility. For example, he has two drivers who like to take Wednesday off so they can go fishing.

“There are probably not a lot of jobs where you can get off on Wednesday and go fishing, but then they always come in Thursday and Friday ready to go. It improves the quality of the employees: I mean, they get a rest day. It’s nice to get away, and the next day they come in rejuvenated. Then when you work the weekends, you don’t feel like, ‘God, I’ve worked 14 days in a row.’ I like that; it’s good for those guys.”

Even though each individual driver only works four days a week, the team as a whole is still running service routes all through the week, and someone is always on duty. Typically, the drivers each have their own regular routes and they work the same four days from week to week.

Weekend Work as a Bonus

Ty Springer returns the suction hose to the hanger on a truck built out by FlowMark Vacuum Trucks.
Ty Springer returns the suction hose to the hanger on a truck built out by FlowMark Vacuum Trucks.

An alternate route is an especially important consideration for a company like ORI, which does a lot of special event work on the weekends, such as servicing Kansas City Royals baseball games, NASCAR races, festivals and more. ORI pays overtime for those weekend jobs, but even so, they can grind workers down over time.

“Our guys beg for bonuses — we have so much, but they fight for it,” Abbott says. “I get it, but I’ve run the route. And when you start to work 21 days in a row — and mind you, the weekends, when we run the Royals games, it’s only a few hours — but the point is you’ve still gone in, it’s still work.”

The drivers working four-10s are salaried employees, which helps keep the workload balanced despite seasonal fluctuations.

“It’s hit and miss. It’s one of those things. In the winter, the special events aren’t quite there, the extra servicing is not there, so the guys would probably work four-eights. And that’s the perk: You’ve put in 34 hours this week, but you still know you’ve got your salary. And they don’t have to worry about it,” Abbott says. “We base our salary on 42 hours, basically. So the giveback for the company is that they know 42, 43 hours is where we need to be. But that’s the thing — when you start to put in the 46, and you think, Man, I worked four extra this week, or eight extra this week. We know, but technically you owe us 100-some hours from the winter season.

“At any given time, we could have kept you at that shop to wash toilets. We could have, but that’s something we like — the route guys come in, run their route, and that’s their thing. They’re the highest-paid people in our company, besides office staff, but they’re the highest-paid people for a reason,” he says. “It’s a lot easier to find a guy to deliver units than, ‘Hey, here’s 50 stops. Go clean all the units perfectly.’”

Key Considerations

It’s also important when considering an alternative scheduling scheme to take into account equipment and route optimization. ORI uses RouteOptix to manage their routes, but running mostly 300-gallon trucks, it can be tough to schedule the most efficient number of stops per day without running out of water.

Abbott says his drivers average 50 to 55 stops, but the key beyond smart planning is promoting a specific mentality among drivers.

“The headache at first was: We’re not going to rush through and do seven-hour days. We’re not going to do, ‘Get it done as fast as you can and get out of here,’” he says. “Slow down. If we start getting any complaint calls, then you’re going back to a regular schedule.”

It’s easy for drivers to see a regular paycheck and think they can start running shortcuts, so clear expectations are important.

“Realistically, could all of our guys do their routes in seven hours? Probably. But we slow them down: They work 8.5, they come back and get their truck ready every night,” Abbott says. “We typically like to power-wash our trucks every night because the perception is already that it’s a dirty business. If our trucks are clean, then they know we take a little pride, and maybe they’ll think, It’s not as bad as we thought.”

Though it may seem fiscally inefficient to encourage drivers to pace their routes, Abbott says it is better for business in the long run.

“Make sure there’s no graffiti on these toilets; make sure they’re all perfectly wiped; make sure all the paper is good and there are no broken parts,” he says. “We’re probably overstaffed. We might have paid one guy more than we need — but it has also saved us jobs because we take the time to make sure our customers don’t have any problems.”

The crew of Outdoor Restrooms Inc. is shown with a truck from FlowMark Vacuum Trucks and the Kansas Speedway, one of the company’s customers, in the background.
The crew of Outdoor Restrooms Inc. is shown with a truck from FlowMark Vacuum Trucks and the Kansas Speedway, one of the company’s customers, in the background.


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