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Hiring Hoosiers: Working on the garbage pickup route

Ridding the rubbish can rake in the dough
Posted: 7:50 AM, Nov 20, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-20 07:50:57-05

Hiring Hoosiers is an initiative from RTV6 that works to connect Hoosiers to employment opportunities, career development resources, training programs and educational paths. Learn more about Hiring Hoosiers and see new stories weekdays at 6 a.m. on RTV6.

INDIANAPOLIS — It's considered a dirty job.

Leon Baker is doing it anyway.

"It has its good days and bad days," he says from behind the wheel of his large rig, "but most of the time, I love it!"

Baker is a sanitation truck operator and driver for Houston-based Waste Management, which has a large operation in Indianapolis and parts of Central Indiana.

Baker has been hauling away trash around here for 15 years and says, "you can make good money doing this, provide for your family."

He remembers those days of yesteryear, when garbage workers braved the conditions and put a strain on their bodies, since handling trash cans and tossing garbage into the back of a slow-moving truck was so labor-intensive.

Over the last decade, the technology on sanitation trucks has changed dramatically, and in turn, the position could be more attractive to applicants.

"They think of the guy on the back throwing trash," says Waste Management District Manager Eugene Billings, "they don't think about the technology where the truck does most of the work now. Once they come aboard and they see that, most of our candidates are pretty happy with how the industry is turning overall."

The industry is changing, indeed.

From his truck cab, Leon Baker can collect trash and cover a broader neighborhood alone, in a fraction of the time.

Buttons and a joystick operate an extending arm that grasps and lifts residential trash bins and empties them into the truck's trash compactor.

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No more spending time in harsh elements.

No more heavy lifting.

No more bringing home a foul stench.

Baker says you need to be comfortable behind the wheel to love this gig in the rig.

He admits, however, the dirtiest part of the job comes from mother nature.

"You might be in for an eight-hour day, but if it snows three inches, it might turn into a twelve-hour day. To me, that's always been the worst part."

New hires would need a CDL Class B license to operate the trucks. Waste Management operates a training center to help workers get that kind of specialized licensing.

District Manager Billings says starting pay is between $20 an hour and $30 an hour, which is a competitive wage for the industry in Central Indiana.

Baker says it's one of the best parts of his job.

"It's really good pay. Good benefits. Good work environment. And good people work here," he says.

Ridding the rubbish from your neighborhoods is not the job is it was 20 years ago.

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