John Paglia, III


What ways can you minimize incidents while backing? What tips on safety can you offer?


The waste industry is already one of the nation’s most dangerous occupations. If you take a second to think about it, everyone and everything produces some sort of waste. Some waste is diverted to becoming a recycled product; others are taken to landfills and transfer stations, or even to a waste to energy facility. At the end of the day, what most people forget or overlook are the people and machines that get it done. When our jobs are done safely and correctly we resemble magicians. We enter your facility like clockwork, dispose the trash and on to the next. As drivers are trained on specific routes they become efficient to the route they are assigned. While this may seem like a great attribute, it can actually become one of the deadliest. Efficiency also breeds complacency. Complacency leads to safety mistakes.


Let me give you a specific example. We recently trained a new front-end load driver. He is a five-day a week employee for our residential department. He has more than five years of residential garbage experience as a driver. Within the last year, he has been in the rotation of a Saturday front-end load recycling route. For the most part, he has done a great job and continued to progress without incidents. A few weeks ago, I received a call from this driver letting me know that a few cars blocked a container. I instructed the driver to politely go inside and ask to have the cars moved. Looking back on the incident now, this seemed to aggravate and fluster the employee by the tone of his voice. The next call I received was by the driver. He let me know he had backed into a parked car and damaged the rear taillight of the customer’s vehicle.


One of the main dangers of front load garbage pickup is backing up. It is important to route all of your containers with the minimal amount of backing possible. If you have your driver backing half a mile around obstacles, it’s only a matter of time before an accident, injury, incident or death will occur. Going back to my example, our truck had a scratch on the arms, while the light duty car had structural damage at only 2 to 3 mph while backing up. It is important to remember, no matter what the speed, if the truck is moving, it is a potential danger to yourself and others and needs to be operated with extreme caution.


Looking at this situation there are many key factors we as haulers, managers, or employees need to always remember:

  1. Point out the hazards—When approaching a container for service, a keen eye goes a long way. Look for obstacles on the path to container and around container. They may even be a low hanging wire or a child playing hide-and-seek behind a container
  2. Remain calm—Taking a deep breath and gaining self-control is a key to safely executing through and around hazards. Remember your training. (Hopefully, you have a stiff training program.)
  3. “If in doubt…get out”—This is key. While backing up, if you have any doubt whatsoever as to what appears in your mirrors or cameras, do not be afraid to pull the parking brake, put the truck in neutral, and physically get out and walk around the truck. By doing this you may have just saved yourself in accident, injury, incident or, God forbid, a death.


John Paglia III is a 4th generation garbage man. Before he climbed the ranks to become Florida Express Environmental’s General Manager, he had a successful career in college and professional athletics. John has been around the garbage industry since his car seat days. Currently, John is focused on growing his company and offering the highest level of customer service and prolonging the world we live in today. John wakes up every day knowing the impact professional haulers have on their community is far greater than most realize. He can be reached at (352) 629-4349, e-mail or visit


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