Marathon's Run

When hurricanes pelt the Florida Keys, Ronald G. Konrath can't afford to have a broken truck in his fleet. President of Marathon Garbage Service Inc., Marathon, Fla., Konrath says his family business, which has been operating for 50 years, must be “ready for disaster recovery.”

“When hurricanes hit, everything is shut down,” he says, but “My family gets into the trucks and begins making pickups. [We want] Marathon Garbage trucks running down the road [to be] the first sign people see after a disaster.”

To that end, Marathon relies on safe drivers and well-maintained trucks to help get the job done. The company's two technicians largely are responsible for servicing the fleet, which includes two recyclers, one clam shell truck with an arm/claw to pickup debris, one roll-off truck and eight trucks with Heil rear loader refuse collection bodies.

Marathon also has tried to make maintenance easy by buying a new truck — with roughly the same specs — every year since 1968. These include the 52,000-pound gross vehicle weight (GVW) International 2564 6×4 with set-back front axles, equipped with DT-466 230-horsepower engines; Allison MD3560 5-speed automatic transmissions; air brakes; hub-piloted disc wheels; 12R22.5 tires; air-ride driver's seat; and 2-man passenger seats.

According to Marathon, the specs have remained pretty much the same over the years, with the exception of the new electronic engine and the new transmissions that replaced the manual transmission. The company says they keep the specs simple because they are “work trucks.”

Keeping in-line with these specs, Konrath already has set his sights on two new high-performance trucks, which the company hopes to purchase by the end of the year. But because the oldest truck in Marathon's fleet is a 1986 roll-off, and the newest vehicle was manufactured in 1998, mechanics take care to handle preventive maintenance, such as oil changes, on schedule. Mechanics also work on all electrical problems or driver writeups, and condition sections of the trucks once a week. Vehicles are reconditioned every three years and rotated out after 10 years, Konrath adds.

Reconditioning consists of repainting the bodies and cabs, inspecting the interior, and replacing rubber floors and weather strips around the doors, if necessary. Weather-stripping typically is handled periodically because it wears out quickly, he adds.

Beyond handling in-house repairs and maintenance, Marathon also relies on its dealers to reduce downtime. Diagnostics can be performed using the telephone, but the company also works with a local transmission dealer to keep trucks running.

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In total, the trucks are maintained to support Marathon's 36 employees, who pickup trash from approximately 7,000 homes (about 30,000 people) in Marathon and nearby towns such as Key Colony Beach, Fla. Garbage is picked up twice weekly, recyclables once a week, and tires, appliances, etc., once a week. Once collected, trash is moved to a transfer station in Long Key, Fla., approximately 17 miles away.

The separation of garbage means drivers pickup less on a route, but they are able to service routes more frequently, Konrath says. The work day usually starts at 4 a.m. and ends by 3 p.m., although actual garbage pickups start at 5 a.m. and end at 1 p.m.

Sometimes it can be difficult for a small family business to compete with the “big guys,” so Marathon works extremely hard to establish relationships with its customers, suppliers and the community, Konrath says.

“I also believe that a clean truck is a ‘happy’ truck,” he says, “and if they're clean [and well-maintained], the crew and community are happy.”

Bob Deierlein is Waste Age's truck editor. For more truck equipment stories, visit