By Cassie McClure
Published in Las Cruces Sun-News 12.05.21
The planning for Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) rebalancing solid waste routes took months. Still, when the new routes started on January 1, 2021, some pickup days changed not only for residents but also for the drivers who drove those routes. LCU Interim Residential Route Supervisor Philip Glasson helped ensure the transition went as smoothly as possible.
“Ninety-nine percent of residents have been patient with us and willing to accept the change in their trash day,” said Glasson, “but our drivers have had to adapt as well.”
For five years, Glasson was a heavy equipment operator, the official title for solid waste truck drivers, before he took on lead roles. Now plenty of his day is at the computer, sifting through the data from the trucks on the routes. Route changes that were implemented came from a larger project to enhance technology on the trucks that hadn’t much changed since the 1980s when the City moved from rear loaders to the side loader trucks seen on the streets today.
LCU added a software called Routeware, which included adding tablets and GPS to each truck. With LCU servicing roughly 38,000 residential and 2,100 commercial containers, Monday through Friday, the routes needed to be assessed for their density. Over time, the routes on the East Mesa took the most time due to being farther away from the transfer station on Amador Avenue, where drivers unload the trash, and the city’s growth.
“Roughly half of the routes changed because of the population growth in the East Mesa,” explained Glasson. “One service area was previously servicing everything in the area stretching from Del Rey Boulevard to Holman Road.”
Previous routes had a huge difference in how many pickups per day. Some drivers would pick up 600 containers, and other drivers might have over 1,000. Those drivers with more would need to call for help from other drivers. Change needed to happen, but it couldn’t happen overnight.
“Drivers had to set coordinates in the GPS for their route, inputting all the things that they knew, like which routes have school zones because we work around the times when kids are dropped off,” said Glasson.
“Routeware has been a great educational tool for the public as well,” said Glasson, who works one-on-one with each account. “When we have to skip a pickup due to a car parked too close to a container, we can take a picture. We also take a time-stamped picture to show that the container was not out at the time we came by.”
Glasson, who still jumps into a truck if there’s a driver out, explained that it’s changed how they’ve driven for some of the crew who have been doing it for a decade or more. “Even during the pandemic, which they pulled through with flying colors, our drivers knew that their service is crucial to the city’s day-to-day needs.”
“Our drivers get used to the areas and its people, just through repetition and keep an eye on what happens in our community,” Glasson said. “Many times, people won’t notice us in the truck, but you’d be surprised how much of a difference it is when we just get a wave while we’re on the route.”
LCU Customer Central can be reached at 575-541-2111 from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides clean, safe, and reliable services to Las Cruces residents and businesses. Learn more at: las-cruces.org/180/Utilities For emergencies, call Dispatch at 526-0500.
PHOTO 1: LCU Interim Residential Route Supervisor Philip Glasson checks a tablet in one of the solid waste trucks before it heads out. Glasson who used to be a driver still hops in when drivers are out while LCU is hiring for more drivers.