If you’ve been seeing some shiny new trucks in your neighborhood, picking up garbage, recycling and heavy trash, well, welcome them to Houston. They are our new solid waste vehicles.
The City of Houston is purchasing 175 new vehicles for the Solid Waste Management Department in this fiscal year — and they’re coming to a neighborhood near you.
When I took office, the city had not kept up with purchasing new vehicles for our emergency responders, so I prioritized police cars and fire trucks. But buying new solid waste vehicles had also been neglected and we are now suffering the consequences.
Some of our garbage trucks were purchased as long ago as 2003. They are not only working beyond their expected lifespan; we have put them through hard times — from Hurricane Ike in 2008 to the Memorial Day Flood in 2015 to the Tax Day Flood in 2016 to most recently Hurricane Harvey in 2017. During and after Harvey, our trucks worked 37 days straight picking up storm debris and the many items people had to throw out from their flooded homes.
Needless to say, our trucks are breaking down, making garbage, recycling and heavy trash pickup late for many Houstonians. Our drivers are working long hours, some seven days a week to keep up with service schedules, coaxing one more run out of our over-used trucks. Our maintenance crews are working overtime too to try to keep as many trucks on the road as possible.
But help is coming in two forms.
Those new vehicles are arriving — about five every week. They include trucks for garbage, recycling and yard waste, tractors and trailers for heavy trash and roll-off trucks for neighborhood depositories. We expect to receive a total of 33 vehicles in August and 31 more in each of the next two months.
Also, since early 2019 the city has leased eight trucks and hired 10 driver/pickup crews from outside companies to supplement curbside pickup service as we — and other cities around the country — have dealt with a shortage of drivers.
On August 7, City Council approved a contract with two experienced disaster relief companies to augment the city’s trash pickup operations. The contractors’ crews will work with city forces to collect junk waste and clear illegal dump sites across the city. DRC Emergency Services, LLC and Nola Construction and Development Group, LLC will be paid up to $1.9 million from the city’s fund balance to supplement the city’s efforts through December 2019. Removing illegal dumped material from ditches and roadsides will not only keep our city clean, it reduces the threats of drainage blockages that could cause flooding and provide breeding sites for mosquitos and other pests.
With a temporary boost from the contract approved earlier this month and the arrival of new trucks for the city, we are eliminating service delays for residents and reducing unusually high levels of stress on workers as well as on old equipment.