Miami-Dade County Department of Solid Waste Management’s Bulky Waste operation collects more than 80,000 piles a year, with approximately 35 crews, using anywhere from 70 to 105 grapple and trash trucks on the road each day.
By Michael Fernandez

I was recently promoted to Director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Solid Waste Management (DSWM), with more than 1,000 employees, a budget of approximately $500 million, a customer base of 353,000 households, and a collection and disposal system that includes multiple landfills, transfer stations and the largest publicly held waste-to-energy facility in the country. DSWM manages approximately 1.8 million tons per year.

The collections operation picks up residential garbage twice-a-week, using more than 150 residential routes. Not only do we collect curbside garbage, but we also collect bulky waste. The Bulky Waste operation collects more than 80,000 piles a year, with approximately 35 crews, using anywhere from 70 to 105 grapple and trash trucks on the road each day. Crews use a combination of self-loading grapple trucks or cranes with trash trucks. After recently hitting the road with an automated side loader garbage route, I thought it was time to jump on a self-loading grapple truck.

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Loving my job! Getting it Done!

Hitting the Road
It was Thursday morning, about 7 a.m., I entered the office and found my crew that was made up of a Trash Crane Operator, Trash Truck Driver and a Waste Attendant. Jerry Thomas, who had driven a tractor trailer for me in the Transfer Division, was the Trash Crane Operator. Ulysses Johnson was the Trash Truck Driver and Colson Ladouceur was the Waste Attendant. After conducting their pre-trip inspection, the crew and I headed out from the yard. We arrived at our first stop where we collected about 25 cubic yards. Jerry began using his new tablet to document a few buckets of paint that were underneath the pile. He raved about the tablet where scheduled and routes work orders can be accessed in the field. Once Jerry closed the work order in real time using the tablet, the customer received notification that the pile had been collected. We are currently working on expanding customer notifications. For instance, it would be great to notify our customers about items that cannot be collected, such as those buckets of paint.

Getting Involved
A few piles later, it was time for me to take over the controls. I drove to the next pile and began collecting the trash. At first, I was a little rusty using the hydraulic levers, but thanks to Jerry, I started getting the hang of it. We cleaned up the pile and left the site looking as though the trash pile never existed. I was really proud of my Bulky Crew. They worked as a team! Ulysses and Colson were directing traffic and raking loose debris, while Jerry was guiding me on the pile. Soon after picking up 70 cubic yards, we headed to dump our load. I drove up to the scale house at our Northeast Transfer Station where the scale operator waved at me. We proceeded to the tipping floor. After dumping our load, we stopped for lunch. We enjoyed lunch together and had a great discussion that included many great ideas from the crew.

After lunch, we headed back on the route to collect another 70 cubic yards. After our second load, we began wrapping things up at around 4:30 pm. I proceeded back to the yard and received the same greeting from everyone just like the time I drove on the garbage route. Everyone was happy to see me driving in a grapple truck and accompanying the trash crew.
I was very appreciative of everyone’s hard work. One tends to forget how difficult it is to collect bulky piles. You are exposed to the outdoor environment and have to master the hydraulic controls to pick up those hard to reach piles that are underneath electrical and utility lines, near mailboxes and in those hard to reach places. DSWM employees are extraordinary professionals and display such courteous customer service. | WA

Mike Fernandez is Director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Solid Waste Management. He can be reached at (305) 514-6626 or e-mail mfern@miamidade.gov.

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