POULSBO — The newest member of Poulsbo’s Public Works garbage fleet has officially joined ranks.
The Peterbilt, a 1997 model purchased from the city of Shelton sporting a Heil mechanical lifting device on its right side, is now taking on more than 400 residential trash cans each Tuesday, and is simultaneously saving public works employees some serious aches and pains.
“We’re in the trial mode,” said public works foreman Joe Walker. “It seems to be going well.”
The department is currently testing the lifting devices on both the Peterbilt and a second truck, one the city previously purchased and adapted with a front-end lifter, Walker said. Efficiency and cost are two of the factors being evaluated, though with the Peterbilt only three weeks into service, the employee learning process is still underway, he said.
Public works director Jeff Bauman said the fleet’s newest addition was purchased for only $15,000 — a good price for a truck that normally runs $150,000 to $250,000.
“It was such a great deal,” he said. “We felt it was a wise choice to get a year’s worth of experience with this one before investing in more.”
While the new truck’s side-lifting device allows drivers to remain in the cab, the front-end lifting device attached to the second truck requires cans to be rolled to the front of the vehicle before it can dump the contents. Though this isn’t as easy for workers, it may be a more versatile system, Bauman said.
“Before we make investments in new equipment we want to scope out the options,” he said. “We’re thinking smaller, single axle trucks that can maneuver streets better.”
Senior maintenance technician Joe Smith said while the main reason for acquiring the truck was to try the lifting device, its effect on those driving it has been a good one.
“This is hard on the body over a period of time,” he said. “The repetition is the hardest part… Your feet, hands, wrists really start aching. You’d be surprised at how much your feet hurt from jumping in and out of a truck all day.”
The department has already implemented a three-month rotation for drivers in order to prevent injury. Smith said he believes the lifting devices can further help in preventing the need to file for Labor and Industries claims.
The new equipment also comes at a much-needed time for Poulsbo’s existing fleet, which is more than a decade old. Most trucks need replacement after seven to 10 years, Bauman said.
“We’re zeroing in on specifications,” he said. “There are so many homes and businesses coming into town… it will allow us to go further with what we’ve got…and maybe most importantly, it will make it easier physically on the guys.”