Recognizing Safe Drivers

EACH YEAR, THE ENVIRONMENTAL Industry Associations honors seven drivers for leading the industry with excellent safety records. The following drivers were recognized at WasteExpo 2005.

David Alderman, who received his award posthumously, drove a garbage truck for 20 years without a reportable accident. Driving mostly city routes in a roll-off or a rear loader for an average of 900 miles per week, David always had a smile on his face and loved driving his truck. He began his career in the garbage business at the age of 18 and refused to even consider any other line of work. He knew his routes extremely well and helped Florida Refuse Service in any manner that he could. To the other drivers, David was often referred to as “Mack Daddy,” because he was a champion garbage truck driver.

Bobbie Gipson drives a front loader over a city commercial route for an average of 1,200 miles weekly on day and night shifts. In his 27 years of service, he has never had a reportable accident, and he received a driver of the year award from his company in the 1980s. Bobbie was reared in the garbage industry, following his father's footsteps, by driving a residential collection route. Over the years, Houston-based Waste Management Inc. has received many letters from customers acknowledging the outstanding service Bobbie provides.

Darrell Merkel has been driving garbage trucks for 30 years for the city of Seattle without a reportable accident. He most often drives a transfer trailer but sometimes drives a roll-off truck or a lowboy. He is considered a senior member of the city's trucking team, which he takes very seriously. He received the Going the Extra Mile award last year for his efforts on the job. In 1986, he won second place in the Truck Road-Co, a truck rodeo. Recently, when the city replaced its compactors, he helped to smooth the transition. He has earned the respect of his peers and management team by helping to fix compactor jams.

Paul Muth has been driving garbage trucks for 18 years without a reportable accident. He mostly drives an automated side loader but occasionally will operate a rear or a front loader. His route is mostly suburban, and he averages 4,500 pickups per week for about 730 miles. Paul has never had a negative observation in Raritan Valley Disposal's supervisor observation program, where supervisors review drivers on the road without the driver's knowledge. He is known for following the safety rules and for always complying with traffic laws. Paul always offers to help when needed.

Zacarias Pelayo drives a front loader and an automated side loader for 6,000 residential pickups per week. In his 30 years of work, he has never had a reportable accident. He started his career as a helper on a truck and was one of the first drivers at Taormina Industries to learn how to operate automated equipment. He is listed in the company's Hall of Fame and has been named as a company employee of the month.

Tom Roeder, who has been accident-free for 32 years, began driving garbage trucks in the early 1970s following military service in Vietnam. He averages 987 pickups per week driving a front loader and occasionally a rear loader. He has a high level of integrity, is dependable and has extraordinary customer service skills. Tom was awarded a certificate of achievement for his safety record from Allied Waste Industries and has received a safety award from the National Safety Council.

Jerry Wright drives a roll-off truck for an average of 1,300 miles per week across city, suburban and rural routes. In his 26 years of driving, he has not had a reportable accident. Jerry began his career in the waste industry in high school by working part time during the school year and during the summers as a residential helper. He has a perfect attendance record and received numerous company awards for safety. A trophy belt on his shelf shows his achievement during BFI truck rodeos.

Alice Jacobsohn is director of public affairs for the Environmental Industry Associations. Contact the author at [email protected].