Doing it the Hard Way
Why's the city renting compost trucks?
by Tim Athan
Last fall, an Ann Arborite noticed that the city was using a rented truck to pick up compost in his neighborhood. Moreover, he noted, it was an older-style rear-loading truck with a crew of three--while the city's newer side-loading trucks require only a single driver. Why was Ann Arbor using rented trucks and increasing labor costs, he wondered--especially after selling off ten trash trucks at a recent auction at the Farm Council grounds in Saline?
According to field operations manager Jody Caldwell, the city rents trucks about ten weeks each year to handle the fall leaf collection. Most residents put out their leaves in brown paper bags, which unlike the city's compost carts, can't be grasped by the side-loaders' automated arms--human beings have to pick up each one and pitch it into a truck.
The city decided it's cheaper to rent trucks, Caldwell emails, than to own additional vehicles that would sit idle forty-two weeks of the year. It chose rear-loaders because they are easier to fill by hand and hold more leaves; one temporary employee per truck helps toss the bags aboard.
As for the trucks that were sold, Caldwell says, "[t]he life span of the automated trucks is 5-8 years. The trucks recently sold at auction were 2004 models."
[Originally published in January, 2014.]