Troy to begin using automated trucks for trash pickup

Published 8:18 pm Tuesday, December 17, 2019

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Workers riding on the backs of garbage trucks will soon be a thing of the past in the City of Troy thanks to new automated trucks that expect to increase safety while saving time and money.

Vaughn Daniels, director of Troy  Environmental Services, said moving to automated trash pickup has been a goal of his since he joined the department more than 20 years ago.

“The main thing is safety,” Daniels said. “Having employees on the back of the truck creates a safety issue. We have in the past, as recently as two weeks ago, had a truck hit from behind while employees were on the back. That has occurred quite a few times. The other reason to switch is a cost savings to the city. Having the automated trucks should allow us to save money with insurances as far as workman’s comp and the efficiency of the operation. Once employees are fully trained and able to operate the automated trucks at full capacity, we should be able to run routes faster.”

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None of the workers that currently ride on the backs of the trucks will lose their jobs. Daniels said there is plenty of work for them to be reassigned to in the department.

And the department will still have days where it will be necessary for workers to ride on the back of one of the manual trucks, such as before holidays where the department doubles up routes.

There are six employees riding on truck Monday through Wednesday and four employees on Thursday and Friday. Daniels said all of the employees that are picking up garbage on the back of trucks already have other duties in the environmental services department and will help the department address more areas once the switch to automation is made.

“They also do maintenance and right-of way cutting and edging, cleaning  litter, maintenance on garbage cans,” Daniels said. “There’s just a whole lot of stuff we do that people might not realize – cutting limbs, cemetery maintenance, cleaning out drains. There’s just a lot of duties that we do. That will enable us to do it better more efficiently.”

The council approved the purchase of the three automated trucks for a total of $675,000 in June 2018, and the trucks arrived in the summer of 2019.

The trucks have already begun to be used, although the department has not made the switch yet to become fully automated. Daniels said all three trucks should be running beginning in the first quarter of 2020.

Daniels said some of the old trucks will be declared surplus now that the new trucks are in, but some of the old trucks will remain part of the fleet for use when more than tree trucks or needed, or for backup in the case one of the new trucks is unavailable for repairs.

With the new trucks come some changes in procedure.

Already, the city has been switching out outdated garbage carts to a universal cart that can be picked up by the truck’s mechanical arm. The city services more than 6,000 garbage carts each week.

“We are currently in the process of changing out our garbage carts, especially the ones that have the metal bars,” Daniels said. “We have to have what is considered a universal cart to operate with this truck. The metal bars won’t work. We’re currently replacing those each week and have been for the past few weeks. If people notice a change in their cart, it’s because we’re going to a universal cart. If anyone has a cart with metal bar at the top, you can call 566-1133 or 311 and we will come out and replace it.”

One of the major new differences residents need to be aware of is the need for cart to be placed with handles facing the house instead of the street. In the past, the handles would be on the street side for easy access by workers, but now the handles need to be facing the other side to ensure the lid opens correctly.

“Only household garbage should be placed in carts, all in bags,” Daniels said. “That’s for sanitary reasons and to eliminate litter. Once it dumps the cart, it could throw out loose trash. No boxes should be placed in the cart; place them beside it for recycling to pick up. No leaves, concrete, bricks, dirt, rocks, charcoals or any construction material including wood should be placed in the carts.”

The carts must have a three-foot clearance on all sides so that the mechanical arm can access them.

“That includes if you have garbage and recycling bins, they need to be three feet apart,” Daniels said.

The carts should also be placed so that they do not obstruct sidewalks or streets and should be removed within 24 hours of being emptied.