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Manteca resident gets chance to ride shotgun with refuse collector
Phyllis Abram looks over the map of the route that she’ll be making with refuse truck driver Jeff Burkhardt early Tuesday morning. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
Phyllis Abram was more than curious when she saw a ride-along with a Manteca municipal refuse collector on the live auction board at the Boys & Girls Club telethon.

Abram took a shot and laid down a $50 bid to see if she might be lucky enough to score a ride on a garbage collection route in a Manteca neighborhood.

And while the brass in the Public Works Department didn’t think that even if someone won they’d actually follow through, Abram showed up at the Refuse Department just before 6:30 a.m. Tuesday to board what would be her oversized taxi for the morning. It gave her a first-hand glimpse at how the operators use the technological advancements to blow through neighborhoods in seemingly record time.

“It was amazing to see how good he was at getting into tight spaces and still being able to pick up the Toters without spilling a drop,” Abram said.

With refuse driver Jeff Burkhardt – known in city circles as JB – at the helm, Abram got a glimpse at exactly what it takes to dispose of all of the garbage that the homeowners in Manteca accumulate on a weekly basis.

The start of her shift, which began shortly after 6:30 a.m., placed her in the neighborhood near Garden Gate Drive where she witnessed Burkhardt work the joystick-like mechanism that controls the arm that picks up the individual Toter and deposits the contents into the rear of the refuse truck.

The state-of-the-art system that the City of Manteca has been using for the last several years not only speeds up the process of serving  neighborhoods, but essentially eliminates the possibility of injury from throwing the heavy cans into the receptacle. It is something that Solid Waste Superintendent Carlos Ramos is all too familiar with from his early days on the job.

“The new system that we’re using basically takes away the possibility of injury and allows the driver to get much more done on a particular route than what they would normally be able to do by hand,” Ramos said. “It’s great that Phyllis was able to rise along today because very people realize how much time is saved with these new trucks.”

After making the initial round, Abram joined Burkhardt on a trip to the landfill out off Austin Road where the non-recyclable refuse was dumped. She then joined up Dennis Della on a front-loading recycling truck to finish out the route before heading back to dump the full load of recyclable materials that will be sorted and sent to the proper facility.

While she herself is an avid recycler, Abram admitted that she had no idea how much went into the process – especially after the trucks that pick up the Toters disappeared from sight.

“They do such a wonderful and thankless job that makes it so we can live our lives in a normal fashion,”  Abram said. “I’m glad that I had the chance to see behind the scenes.”