Tyler Explores the Future Of Trash

Most people take their garbage for granted. They sit it out by the curb and forget about it. But the city of Tyler is thinking about your garbage.

the city is testing out what may be the future of garbage pickup. It's a new garbage truck, featuring an extendable arm on the right side to pick up trash cans without human assistance.

"It'll actually cut down on the amount of physical stress on the employees," explains Todd Lestage of the Tyler Solid Waste Department. "You're using these wheeled carts, and although they're bigger than your standard garbage can, they're more ergonomically sound, they're easy to maneuver."

Right now, only about fifteen hundred homes out of Tyler's thirty-six thousand customers are using the new truck. The groundmen are still hustling, but the new truck helps.

"Solid waste workers have higher workers compensation rates," says Lestage. "They're not running into a burning building like a fireman or getting shot at like the police, but when you lift fifty pounds a hundred times a day, it can be really tough on the back."

The new truck costs about fifty thousand dollars more than a regular truck, but they expect to eventually make that back in labor costs.

"It can save the city some money in labor costs," Lestage says. "Instead of using our traditional three man crews, a driver and two ground men, we can use two drivers on this system."

Any personnel cuts would come long term, probably through attrition. For now, they're still testing the program, seeing if the new trucks are worth picking up.

The city of Tyler will experiment with the new truck for at least six months. It has several current garbage trucks scheduled for replacement in 2004, so it has plenty of time to decide whether or not to expand the fleet of new trucks.

Reid Kerr (rkerr@kltv.com) reporting.