We have recently moved to Columbia from another Midwest city with very similar demographics. This former city transitioned from manual garbage pickup to automatic garbage pickup.

There were several reasons why the city made that decision.

One reason was due to the exposure to employee injury and the accompanying insurance payouts to justify the automatic trucks.

The injuries used to justify the automatic trucks were not from garbage pickup work at all; the injuries were actually firefighters testing fire hydrants, not garbage men.

Another reason was because this community wanted to appear “progressive” and the automatic trucks looked “sexier” than the back-load trucks.

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.

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 “multi-task.”

Moreover, the arms on the automatic load trucks must be rebuilt every three to five years at a cost of $500,000.

I say Columbia should retain the back-load trucks and hire additional personnel and give them a good paying job. It is better to pay the starting employees as the money stays in the community.

As far as not having adequate number of drivers qualified to drive the back-load trucks, i.e. lack of CDL licensed drivers, the most effective remedy is to pay the CDL drivers a higher wage — simple law of supply-and-demand.

The automated trucks need the exact same number of drivers as the back-load truck therefore eliminating the argument about needing automated trucks due to lack of CDL licensed drivers.

The employees working the back of the back-load trucks do not require a CDL license.

Chris Kalapp is a Columbia resident.

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