One Day: Freeman Caudill, solid waste truck driver

Published 7:55 am Monday, April 30, 2018

Freeman Caudill starts his 9- 10-, or 11-hour workday at about 3 a.m. on Mondays. Other days, he starts about 5 a.m. On Mondays, Freeman drives his bright blue, Granite Mack Truck to Northpoint Training Center, where he drops off an empty 40-yard container and picks up one filled with the prison’s recycling materials, such as cardboard or steel cans. From there, he goes to Boyle County’s recycling center and drops off the cargo.

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The rest of the day, and for the remaining work week, Freeman follows a route between Boyle County’s six convenience centers and the recycling center and travels back and forth to the landfill.

On Mondays, Caudill says he drives about 250 miles — in a Mack truck that gets about 5 miles to a gallon — loading and unloading containers and dumping trash. Tuesdays through Fridays he only drives about 190 miles a day, but it depends on how busy and full the recycling centers are and how many times they need the containers emptied and replaced.

Some people may think garbage truck drivers have it easy, just traveling from place to place, dropping of trash, Freeman says in his quiet voice. But, “It’s a lot of hard work to keep it up. There’s a lot of stuff involved.”

One day he figured up how many times he climbed up and down the three tall steps of his truck’s cabin to hook and unhook compressor containers at convenience centers when he does a double drop — that is to drop off an empty container, take off the compressor container and set it aside; move the empty one onto the compressor, and hook up the full container to take to the landfill.

“I counted 14 times” at just one site to complete the task, Freeman says.

On regular pick ups and drop offs, Freeman still gets in and out of his truck at least five times at each stop.

“It makes an old man out of you.”

But, he adds, “It’s hard work in a pie factory if you work at it.”

The loud rumbling of the big truck’s engine and constant high-pitch beeps when it’s in park never cease as Freeman walks around pushing buttons, moving levers, sliding pins, heaving hooks and loosening belts when he’s moving loads from one location to another.

And it doesn’t matter what the weather is like. 

“I’ve been soaking wet and half froze up,” Freeman says. “But we don’t pay no attention to it. You still have to do your job.”

There’s even more work to do when people don’t throw their trash all the way into the containers.

For instance, before he can load one that’s full of discarded furniture, Freeman finds a long sturdy stick and spends about 10 minutes poking and pushing a soggy mattress so that it won’t fly out when he’s traveling to the landfill. But to get it wedged in, he has to move wet piled up sofas and chairs while wiping rain out of his eyes.

Freeman said he wouldn’t want anything like a mattress flying out and hitting the windshield of one of his family member’s cars, and he doesn’t want it to happen to anyone else either.

He also makes several trips in and out of the convenience centers’ offices, filing and picking up documentation for each load. Who knew there was so much paperwork involved with discarding trash.

Freeman likes driving the Mack truck with an automatic transmission the best. It’s a lot easier on a man, he says. When driving a stick shift with several gears, you don’t get to rest between loads like you can with an automatic, he says grinning.

As he waits to pull out of the recycling center and cross the median heading back to the Gose Pike center, Freeman says in his job, “You find out what people think of you,” as he waits for an impatient driver to go around him.

“I’ve even had some go through the grass just to get around me.”

“I have to have eyes all around me,” when driving or parking. “I want to be as safe as I can and do it to the best of my ability.”

Other drivers need to remember garbage truck drivers have heavy loads on big trucks and can’t stop as quickly as a car. “You’ve got to have plenty of distance between you and the truck. We’re liable to slide right on you,” if you stop suddenly or quickly cut in front of a garbage truck.

When asked why he liked his job, Freeman says, “I get to drive a truck!” He said he’s liked trucks, “Ever since I was big enough to look at ’em.”