Driven to Succeed

EIA recognizes outstanding garbage truck drivers for 2008.

Large Commercial Category: Jerome Overton, Republic Services Inc., Henderson, Nev. Jerome Overton has been driving for Republic for 14 years without any accidents or citations. Starting out with residential routes, he now services 200 businesses each day. During the last six years, he has driven the same route and has gotten to know his customers well. “The smile on my face tells you how much I love my job,” Overton says. “I have been inspired to be a great driver because of my hearing-impaired daughter, now in college, who always strives to be the best.”

Large Industrial Category: John Morrow, Waste Management Inc., Reno, Nev. A 24-year veteran of Waste Management, John Morrow also has managed to avoid any accidents and citations. Making this feat even more impressive is the fact that, for the last 19 years, he has worked the graveyard shift. “I chose this route so I could be home for my kids in the afternoon,” Morrow says. “Now I'm used to it.”

Morrow says he doesn't mind going above and beyond for his customers. “One time, the power went out at a customer's hotel, and I spent extra time helping to get the dock door open manually,” he says. “The customer was pleased because they were worried that hotel guests would smell the trash if I did not collect it that day.”

Large Residential Category: Richard Lial, Republic Services Inc., Henderson, Nev. Richard Lial has been driving Republic trucks for 12 years without an accident or citation. He services 1,200 households, 400 more than the average driver in his area. He has earned the nickname “Garbage Man to the Stars,” because many of his customers are actors. Nearly 100 customers recommended Lial for “Driver of the Year.”

“Sometimes kids run toward the truck, like I'm the ice cream man,” says Lial. “But I tell them about safety, and they don't get too close to the truck.”

Public Sector Category: Robert Overton, City of Fresno, Calif. For 10 years, Robert Overton has completed 5,200 pickups per week without any accidents or citations. Most of his customers are residential, but he also has one commercial recycling route. “My recycling customers seem friendlier,” says Overton, who also received Fresno's Award of Excellence in March 2007 after being nominated by a customer. “Maybe that's because recycling makes them feel good.”

Small Commercial Category: Jaime Diaz, Mr. T Carting Corp., Glendale, N.Y. Jaime Diaz has been driving trucks for more than 30 years without an accident or citation. Since joining Mr. T Carting, he has worked four different routes, using each as an opportunity to learn and improve. He has driven a commercial route for the last six years. “I enjoy talking with my customers because, while my English is not very good, we can still share stories about our families and tell jokes,” says Diaz, who did not take a single sick day or personal-leave day last year. Meticulous about keeping his truck clean, he is reluctant to let other drivers use it, fearing they will not maintain it to his standards.

Small Industrial Category: James Metzger, Peoria Disposal Co., Peoria, Ill. James Metzger has been driving garbage trucks since 1981 without a single accident or citation. In fact, Metzger has received awards for safe driving from his employer every year for more than 10 years and has been commended by his superiors for his attention to regulations. His current route servicing rural customers is roughly 1,300 miles a week, averaging 16 pickups. “I know my customers so well that we take care of each other now without asking,” Metzger says. “Whatever my customers need, I provide.”

Small Residential Category: Delmar Decker, Manitowoc Disposal Inc., Manitowoc, Wis. “The key to my success as a truck driver is being courteous at all times,” Delmar Decker says. “The rest is luck.” Decker started at Manitowoc in 1980, picking up 60,000 pounds of refuse a day for the city of Two Rivers. After 28 years, he still is accident- and citation-free, currently driving 300 miles a week for 5,200 pickups. “I've always jumped for new opportunities,” Decker says. According to his superiors, he has never missed a day of work and always is the first one on the job.

Alice Jacobsohn is a director at EIA. E-mail her at