China Grove officials hope to improve leaf pickup with new truck

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 6, 2023

CHINA GROVE — The town approved the purchase of a leaf and debris collector truck for the town’s public works department during a regularly-scheduled council meeting on Tuesday.

The $265,188 truck is being purchased with American Rescue Plan Act funds.

According to China Grove Director of Public Works David Ketner, it has an advantage over other trucks of its kind in the town’s fleet because a single driver can operate it.

“The truck takes the labor force out of it,” Ketner said. “It’s one man in the truck instead of needing two.”

The truck works with a joystick-controlled hydraulic boom that can be controlled from the driver’s seat. Previously, each truck required that a second worker walk behind the truck and manually control the vacuum. Under those circumstances, the driver and the second worker intermittently swap positions.

“You are getting more hours with the chute instead of the walk behind because they aren’t stopping and swapping out the driver and walker,” Ketner said.

However, according to the public works director, some elements of leaf pickup can’t be automated.

“It’s not a magic truck,” Ketner said. “You still have to dump the truck when it’s full.”

Given the amount of organic debris the average resident collects in China Grove, Ketner said his crews are routinely moving throughout town to pick it all up.

“We are doing it monthly because it takes that long to cover the town with the men we have,” Ketner said.

The new truck will be added to the current fleet, leading Ketner to express optimism for increased efficiency of the pickup process.

“I have worked here for 35 years, and we have never had a leaf left on the street before we go home in the summer,” Ketner said.

Like other municipalities in southern Rowan County, China Grove is experiencing significant growth and development. Despite the invariable influx of new homeowners to the area, Ketner indicated that it would take some time before those new residents required regular leaf pickups.

“As you grow, your new developments won’t impact pickup much until they get more trees,” Ketner said. “They don’t have a lot of plants in new developments.”

Workers will need to go through training on how to operate the new truck.

“We want our people to know what they are doing,” Mayor Charles Seaford said.

Ketner indicated that he would provide insurance estimates for the new equipment at next month’s meeting.