Dispatcher (Ret. May 2020)
How long have you been in the industry?: 50 years
How did you get involved? Out of high school, I was a data processor at Mobile Oil Company and I wanted to get outside; I didn’t want to work in a basement anymore. One of the elders of our church had a trash company (Rubbish Haulers, Inc. in Montebello CA) and he told me that one of their drivers was leaving. He said if you get your permit, we’ll teach you how to drive roll-offs, so I started there in August 1970. After that, I worked for about a half dozen different companies. In September 1972, I started at the Puente Hills Landfill (Whitter, CA) as a laborer and from there I worked on the grounds crew, cleaned offices and was promoted to the scale house. Then, I earned my class A license and started driving a transfer truck. From there I moved on to operating heavy equipment. I worked with a lot of great guys who took me under their wing.
I loved coming down the hill on the heavy equipment doing 20 to 30 miles per hour hauling 40 yards of dirt. I learned maintenance and repairs from our mechanics. It was an amazing job. I operated stick shift tractors to the automatics to the CAT D9L. Puente Hills Landfill is one of the largest in the country and we used to reach our permitted tonnage by 10am. Then, we’d come back from lunch, and have two or three football fields full of trash on the ground to clean up before the scrapers started running. The people I worked with were amazing. We helped out each other and got the job done. After doing that for about 35 years, in the early 2000s, I had a friend in the trash industry in Los Angeles and they were looking for a dispatcher (Serv-Well Disposal). I decided too take an early retirement at Puente Hills landfill and take a desk job. I worked at Serv-Well for the next 13 years. I pulled the plug at 68 years old to enjoy my freedom and my family. That ended 50 years in the trash industry. Over my career, I had just about every job—from driving roll-offs, front loaders, picking up on recycling routes to working at the landfill—it was a great industry to work in.
Who/What was your biggest influence?: Old timers that took me under their wing and even the management. They were very cordial and they respected you. Very young, I learned to get respect you have to give respect and that worked out very well for me throughout the industry.
What has been your most unique/interesting experience over the years?: When you get on heavy equipment, you’re running something you used to play with in the sandbox. This was something I dreamed about when I was a kid. Putting in roads, building berms, etc. was all in a days work. You can look back on those accomplishments and know that you built that. One of the biggest things I loved was building new slopes on the landfill. Taking an untouched piece of the landfill and creating
something out of nothing. To get from the beginning to the end, there is a lot of blood sweat and tears that go into that. If you learn the job right, you are proud of what you have accomplished.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to the industry today?: One of the biggest challenges is recruiting drivers and keeping them, because in this industry hauling trash is a “dirty job”. In the “over the road” trucking industry, truckers just drive a truck to someplace and their load is palletized and ready to go so they don’t have to get dirty.
In addition, as a dispatcher, the regulatory side of the municipalities is a huge challenge. Every city is different and when you are servicing Los Angeles County you are in and out of a lot different cities. For example, in the old days when you were doing a construction job, you just dumped in the landfill. Now, with diversion requirements on all recyclable materials, the logistics of where the box is picked up and where the materials goes is a big challenge. Right now, on top of everything else, here comes AB 1826 and AB 1383 (Mandatory Organics Recycling), one more recyclable material that needs to be hauled, processed and tracked by Cal Recycle guidelines.
During COVID-19, the biggest problem I’ve seen for the industry is that some of the commercial business that were shut down didn’t notify their haulers. At Serv-Wel, they sent out a notice asking businesses to contact the company if they were not operating so they could make the route corrections. A lot of our drivers are dumping 300 to 400 bins per day and that way they can follow up with businesses on whether or not they will continue to operate. That is going to be a nightmare in the long run. I saw on the news that Memorial Day was going to be a turning point for a lot of the small businesses. In addition, so many people are out of work, that no one is spending money. You have to keep it going the best you can. It is going to affect the bottom line for a long time.
What do you like most about being in the industry/your job?: It was a good living, it paid the bills. Whichever part I was in, I learned something. When I was at the District, I raised two sons with my wife, and it was great. I loved running the equipment, driving the trucks, etc.
Hobbies: Organizing my garage, catch up on my bible study, traveling.
Last vacation: Pismo Beach, CA. That is one of our favorite places to go to get away from the hustle and bustle. We try to get there a few times per year.
Words to live by: Keep the Faith and trust in God and He’ll get you through it. | WA