Cedar Rapids’ fleet of two-worker, rear-load garbage trucks are on the way out.
On Tuesday, the city’s Solid Waste & Recycling Division unveiled one of its seven new single-worker, side-load garbage trucks intended to cut the city’s labor costs and help reduce worker injuries.
The city intends to purchase 10 of the trucks in total at a cost of about $250,000 each, Steve Hershner, the city’s interim utilities director, reported on Tuesday.
Hershner said nine city positions will be eliminated with the new trucks, but he said the displaced workers will have options to move into other city jobs. In fact, the city’s solid-waste operation has been running at a “bare-bones” level in anticipation of bringing on the new one-worker trucks without layoffs, Hershner said.
As for a reduction in injuries, Hershner said, “If you think about it, when we looked at what our drivers were lifting over the course of the day, back in the old days it might have been upward of five tons a day. And that’s obviously a lot of physical strain in many different types of environments — from cold and snow and very slippery environments to very hot and difficult (ones).”
City Manager Jeff Pomeranz pushed the city’s transition to one-worker garbage trucks, and he has noted that the city of West Des Moines, where he had been city manager before coming to Cedar Rapids two years ago, had moved to one-worker trucks.
On Tuesday, Pomeranz said he pulled a shift on a Cedar Rapids city garbage truck shortly after joining the city to see firsthand what the job was like.
“I didn’t just sit in the cab,” Pomeranz joked. “I picked up some cans.”
It was apparent, he said, that the operation could be more efficient, less costly and safer for employees, all of which the new trucks accomplish, he said.
With the new trucks, the driver will direct a mechanical arm from inside the truck to pick up and dump the city-issued plastic Garby garbage cans. Residents will be asked not to park in front of the Garby and to leave three feet of space around the Garby to allow room for the truck’s mechanical arm. Extra bags of garbage with garbage sticker can be put on top of the closed Garby, though at times, drivers will need to handle garbage bags if there are too many to fit on top of the Garby, Hershner said.
The city already has one-worker recycling trucks, though drivers must exit the truck at each stop and bring the recycling cart to the truck, where an arm lifts and dumps the cart. This allows the driver to separate glass into a separate container.
The city also has single-operator, automated trucks to pick up yard waste.
The city has 10 garbage, 10 recycling and six yard-waste routes each workday.