Garbage truck driver goes above and beyond for the people of Ipswich

Not long after the sun rises each day, the dedicated team at Ipswich Waste Services gets to work collecting the city’s rubbish. However, as a moment with driver Michael Jones reveals, the job is more about people than waste.

When Michael Jones gets behind the wheel of an Ipswich Waste Services (IWS) truck it is people, not bins, that are at the forefront of his mind.

He has been with IWS for about five years, starting on the trucks after years of driving road trains before taking on the position of team leader.

The city’s garbage truck drivers are often on the front line when it comes to council’s interaction with the community.

It is a reality not lost on Michael who is proud to serve the city he calls home.

“When I was driving full time, I used to be on a first name basis with all the old girls I would help out,” he said.

“I’d introduce myself and often we’d have a quick chat each week as I emptied their bins and I would take their mail in too, most are in their 80s or 90s and really look forward to it, it’s nice to be able to help.

“One of them, Violet, she has budgies and a nice lawn so we would talk about birds and lawn care products, and she would bake me pies to say thanks, so sometimes I would take my lunch break with her to eat the pie and have a chat.

“She likes her bin to be hosed out so I would empty it, hose it out and then when I came back down the street to do the other side, I’d stand the bin up and take it back in for her.”

These days Michael spends most of his time helping to coordinate the IWS domestic fleet of 24 trucks as it carries out waste, recycling and green waste collection.

However, he will happily get back behind the wheel if the team is a little behind, a driver is sick or some other circumstance arises that requires him to cover a run.

When he is behind the wheel, it is all about rhythm to maintain efficiency – approach the bin, lift it, empty it, return it to the kerb, repeat. But don’t be fooled, there’s a lot more going on in the driver’s cab than a few basic actions.

No two bins are placed the same and the smooth rhythm and steady pace Michael sustains is testament to his skills with the controls, concentration behind the wheel and ability to negotiate obstacles, of which there are many.

Cars parked too close to bins, low hanging telecommunications lines and tree branches, bins up against power poles, tight cul de sacs, pedestrians and motorists whizzing past the truck must all be negotiated during a run.

Manoeuvring the lifting arm carefully is crucial (with only the rear view mirrors as a guide – no automation here), pick the bin up too low and it’s easy to pop the wheels off, misjudge when to extend the arm and a bin full of rubbish can end up on the kerb.

An eye is kept on the screen in the cab showing the garbage going into the truck and all the while Michael is planning ahead to avoid doubling back on streets already done.

“It’s about being efficient, not fast. Fast is when you start knocking over bins, spilling rubbish and doing damage,” Michael explains.

“A good day is when you spend as much time driving forward as possible, if you’re knocking bins over and having to get out and pick up the rubbish or doubling back on ground you already covered, it’s not efficient.

“We want to provide a good service to the community and there is no better feeling than looking back in the rear view mirror and seeing a street full of empty bins all stood up.”

The results speak for themselves with IWS data showing a customer satisfaction rate of 99.9%.

How to make your garbo’s day:

    • Keep your bins one metre apart: The arm that lifts them into the truck needs a little bit of room. If bins are too close, the driver has to get out and separate them.
    • Keep clear of obstacles: Look up and if possible try not to place your bin under low hanging wires or tree branches.
    • Don’t overfill: Birds love an overfilled bin and will rip the rubbish out, leaving behind an unsightly mess.
    • Have your bin out early: By 6am the day of collection is the go.
    • Give them a wave: If you spot your garbo on their run, give them a smile and a wave, it will mean a lot.

Two sides to Ipswich Waste Services

Ipswich Waste Services is operated by Ipswich City Council. It employs 81 permanent staff and agency workers and provides domestic and commercial waste collection services.

Operating domestic waste collection in-house, as opposed to contracting it out, allows council to provide an improved service for ratepayers.

It also means customer concerns, such as when a bin is missed or damaged, can be addressed promptly with no additional service cost to the city.

With the ongoing strong residential growth in Ipswich, up to 800 bins on average are being added for collection each month.

The commercial side of the service has 1197 customers and is growing significantly, with an extra 23 customers added in September alone.

Providing a commercial service, which includes skip hire and waste collection for industry, helps offset the cost of domestic waste collection by generating revenue for council. Learn more about IWS’ services here.

Number of rated services in Ipswich, generally two bins per service

Number of cameras (inside and out) on each truck

Number of residential green waste bins in Ipswich

What’s the secret to remembering bin day?

It’s not unheard of for IWS drivers to spot a half dressed person rushing to the kerb to get their bin out at the truck approaches.

But as Michael Jones explains, it doesn’t have to be that way.

So what’s his tip for remembering bin day and which one to put out?

“It’s simple, use the Ipswich Bin App, that’s the best way,” he said.

The app lets you know whether it’s your general waste, recycling or green waste bin collection week. It also has handy waste sorting tips. Find out more here.

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