Trucks that Make You Want to Stay Another 10 Years
Tennessee Public Works Magazine - Mar/Apr 2017 - Vol. 34 No. 7
What if you could provide your employees with a tool that makes them want to do their jobs even more? Such is the case with 29-year-veteran-employee of the City of Murfreesboro Ralph King. “I’m close to retirement, but this truck makes we want to stay another 6 years!”
The City of Murfreesboro recently purchased five Roto Pac Mack Trucks from New Way Manufacturer in Iowa, with three more expected in May 2017. “It’s a lot easier and a lot quicker,” said King. “This truck is more like a video game, or a robot. It does what I want it to do.”
With simplified controls, cutting down about half of the operations needed, the new truck is more efficient. “This truck does a lot neater of a job with fewer spills since it’s also designed for wind,” said King. “You know how it was years ago; there was trash on the street. We couldn’t help it. This truck is sealed. That’s what’s different about this truck.”
King has seen all kinds of changes in technology during the 22 years he has been running this same residential route. This particular truck was designed for the food industry and has a grinding system with an auger.
Joey Smith, Solid Waste Director of the City of Murfreesboro, said, “Part of the reason why I went with these trucks is because it's a totally different technology.” He said he researched the body of the truck for nine months before he got one for demonstration purposes. His team used it for four weeks in May 2015 and on the very first day they had over seven inches of rain. "The first thing that caught my eye was that it didn't leak at all!" He said, “I was looking for a truck that would pick up the garbage and would not leak."
Besides eliminating a lot of customer service phone calls, Smith said he likes that it doesn’t have a packing blade. “When you go to take it to the landfill to dump, it's practically pre-shredded. Our load is about a third of capacity, but it still has the same weight. I would guess it saves a step of compaction at the landfill.”
Smith said, “It's a lot easier in the mechanics of it too. I wouldn't be adverse to say that growing up on the Mack MR, it's probably one of the better trucks because it was designed by a driver, not by an engineer.” The driver side has that old 1950s-style curved glass which gives a lot more visibility for the driver. However, as much as his team loves the new trucks, he still has to have some rear loaders because the town square wasn’t designed for the bigger style of trucks.
Smith does warn that these are the most expensive trucks to maintain. “The more green you want to be, the more green you spend,” he said.
Smith offered words of wisdom about the bidding process that only come after years of experience. “One of the things I do is to include the maintenance people in any of the decisions being made on a vehicle. So that it's not so driver-friendly that a mechanic can't work on it, and it’s not so mechanic-friendly that a driver can’t operate it. I try to balance both sides. It's a two way street.”
Smith recommends allowing for a whole day in the bid process for the fleet maintenance staff to basically take apart the new truck. “One of the benefits you gain from including them in the work is that they get to see the truck pristine. You give them that opportunity so that they can look at the truck. The mechanics come in and have the training room set up with the PowerPoint presentation and go through an hour or 2-hour classroom setting. They give the guys a maintenance book and they have about a 2-hour hands-on session for the body, and 2-hours on the truck and chassis.”
Another tip Smith offered was to require the manufacturers to list all the serial numbers and filters that have to be changed, which allows the fleet services department to input the data in their computerized Fleet Faster system. “Take just an hour and write that into your specs; it's already there and pre-loaded. It's not a guessing game,” Smith said. “Sit down with your maintenance manager. It makes life so much simpler because you are paying it at the front end instead of in an emergency situation.”
For Smith, 2017 marks 31 years of service in garbage and recycling. He has picked up garbage in Birmingham, Ala.; Atlanta, McDonough, Peachtree City and the Town of Tyrone, Ga.; Charlotte, N.C.; Jackson, Miss.; Boston, Mass.; Oak Brook, Ill.; Abingdon, Va.; and Kingsport, Hendersonville, Belle Meade, Nashville and Murfreesboro, Tenn.
“It's all the same. It's people. It's routes. It's equipment,” he said. “Garbage is garbage. It all stinks in the summer and freezes in the winter. We all ultimately have the same goal: to be responsible and do it in a timely fashion.”
When Smith arrived in Murfreesboro in 2000, the population was around 60,000 people. Now it is closer to 135,000 and is predicted to eclipse Chattanooga in the next 4 to 5 years. “I put out over 800 brand new carts to brand new homes last year. Ask the garbage man and he can tell you how the economy is doing,” he said.
“Garbage is fun. It's actually going to be more fun in the next 5 to 8 years when we decide how we are going to resolve our biggest issue.” With the Middle Point Landfill projected to close in 8 to 10 years, all of the local governments have agreed to work on a solution, which could be as low-tech as a convenience center or transfer station or as high-tech as waste energy. “You know you're not going to get another landfill and I've been in it too long to know that there has to be a better way than just burying it.”
Smith is up to the challenge. He claims his staff know the residents and the city better than anyone else. “We are the only department that rides every street, every week. We put more miles on any vehicles except for the police department - and we're a four-day-a-week operation.”
“The only unknown we have in the whole system is the resident, which I think is probably true of any municipality or county,” Smith said.
But that’s where he depends on his team. “Ralph loves garbage. He loves his people that he serves every day.” Smith said, “I got him that new truck and maybe he’ll stay another 10 years! He loves that truck.”