Local

Shortage Of Available Trucks Delays Atlanta Yard Waste Pickups

The city of Atlanta has had to bring in contractors to help with the waste it's unable to collect. This grapple truck, for example, picks up yard waste.
The city of Atlanta has had to bring in contractors to help with the waste it's unable to collect. This grapple truck, for example, picks up yard waste.
Credit Laura Markson

Bags of yard waste have been gathering on some Atlanta sidewalks.

Why?

The city says it is short on waste removal trucks and the money to buy more.

William Johnson, the Public Works commissioner, said it’s not a new problem but, “Now it’s just snowballing.” Last year, the department had some backup equipment available, but now even that equipment is too old to fix, as parts aren’t available.

He said currently just 51 trucks are able to cover the work of 74. Almost a third of the fleet is beyond its useful life, he said, and about another third is expected to follow within the year.

That means the department has to make choices about where to put resources.

“When we’re short on a daily basis in terms of available trucks, we prioritize to pick up all the trash first, recycling second, and, if we’re going to have to be late a day or two, then it’s going to have to be on yard waste,” he said.

For every truck that doesn’t go out, Johnson said about 1,000 customers experience a delay of service.

It also means Johnson has asked City Council to raise solid waste fees.

“We’re running at about a $14 to 15 million deficit year over year, and the solid waste fees will allow us to eliminate that deficit and allow us to purchase trucks every year,” he said.

The final proposal for new fees is expected this week.

In the meantime, he said the department is working Monday through Saturday and redesigning routes to improve efficiency. Those new routes are set to take effect July 9 and would “hopefully” reduce the total needed trucks to 64, he said.

The department has also added bulk debris contractors. Those are grapple trucks with claw-like mechanisms to pick up waste.

“They’re a little bit slower than our typical rear loaders, but they are an added resource, and they’re collecting a lot of tonnage for us,” he said.

The department has ordered some new trucks already, but they take about 300 days to manufacture.

Until they arrive and the department finds more funds for even more new trucks, Johnson said everyone is just trying to “hang on.”