This letter is in response to Monday’s article City should pay refuse truck drivers higher wage to retain employees.”

First and foremost, let’s start off with what we would all actually be voting on in November:

All that the group Columbia MO Citizens For Roll Carts is working toward is to repeal the ordinance banning roll carts and automated trucks in favor of allowing roll carts and automated trucks.

By repealing the ban, we are just opening up more options for the city to keep Solid Waste city run.

Unless the ban is repealed, Columbia is headed toward either an extreme rate hike or bankruptcy and privatization.

Now let’s talk about that earlier article:

The letter writer says: “The automatic trucks were about four times the cost of a manual truck at approximately $1.4 million versus a standard back load truck at about $300,000.”

Answer: Automated trucks are now about $30,000 less than rear-loading trucks. When you add in fuel efficiency, the cost is about the same. The cost of automated trucks has come way down now that more and more cities are implementing automated trash and recycling pick up. Simple supply and demand at work here.

The letter writer also states: “The back-load truck could last about 10 years and could also be used to vacuum up leaves in the fall and had enough mass to attach a snow blade and push snow when needed. The automatic trucks could not ‘multitask.’”

Answer: We currently don’t use trash trucks for snow plowing. Solid waste and street maintenance are separate departments. The city frequently retrofits Parks and Rec trucks with plow blades to handle smaller culs-de-sac that require back and forth and turns.

We are not a city that has citizens rake leaves to the street. Not to say we wouldn’t ever implement this, but we currently don’t.

Another of the writer’s claims: “Another reason was because this community wanted to appear ‘progressive’ and the automatic trucks looked ‘sexier’ than the backload trucks.”

Answer: Sexy? How about safer? Full stop. Since Solid Waste is its own division, all of the numbers that we report for workers compensation are only for solid waste workers. And it’s about $800,000.

The letter says: “ ... not having adequate number of drivers qualified to drive the back-load trucks, i.e. lack of CDL licensed drivers ...

... Automated trucks need the exact same number of drivers as the backload truck ... .”

Answer: Solid Waste is understaffed in all positions, CDL and loaders. This is why we no longer have curbside recycling — no one to run those routes.

The city is also spending $600,000 per year on temp agencies just to fill the loading positions right now. People just aren’t interested in the very high risk of bodily injury in order to pick up other people’s trash every day when they could be doing it from inside of a truck.

Also, fully automated trucks require only one person to operate and that person operates the arm from the inside of the truck.

Having trucks that require only one person would actually free up more positions for more trucks to run more routes, since a truck no longer needs three people.

In the end, even if the ordinance were to stand, we’re only delaying the inevitable. Once the city is out of money to run the Solid Waste Department — projected to be around 2024 — we will all experience either extreme rate hikes — much higher than with roll carts — or it will be privatized. Privatization means roll carts and much, much higher rates.

Think about the benefits in every aspect.

And then just “roll with it.”

Kristin Hill is a member of Columbia MO Citizens for Roll Carts, which is advocating to repeal the ordinance banning roll carts/automated trucks for trash service in the city.


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