The City of Hillsdale now has three new trucks, thanks to the Clean Diesel Program, which helped provide funding for the trucks. COLLEGIAN | Grace Houghton

The arrival of fall means fairs and fes­tiv­ities, but also hails the coming of winter, with all its treach­erous road con­di­tions.

This winter, the City of Hillsdale’s Department of Public Ser­vices is newly equipped to handle the winter onslaught with three new dump trucks pur­chased with the aid of a grant awarded by the Michigan Department of Envi­ron­mental Quality.

Mechanic and truck operator Doug Buildner admits that though he’s “getting tired of snow,” he’s “kind of looking forward to this year, because of the trucks.”

Funding for the trucks was pos­sible through the Clean Diesel Program, a part­nership of the United States Envi­ron­mental Pro­tection Agency and state gov­ern­ments to replace inef­fi­cient heavy equipment through grants and rebates funded under the Diesel Emis­sions Reduction Act.

Through the Michigan Department of Envi­ron­mental Quality and the US EPA, Hillsdale received a matching grant, split 75/25 between the city and the Michigan Department of Envi­ronment Quality. Through the ini­tiative of City Manager David Mackie and Finance Director Bonnie Tew, the city pulled funds from the City of Hillsdale’s Department of Public Ser­vices Revolving Equipment Main­te­nance Fund and the Capital Improvement Fund to gather $326,250 toward the pur­chase of the trucks, to which the grant added $108,750.

There are many grant pro­grams that help with either state or federal funding, Mackie said in an email. While all grant pro­grams, whether state or federal, “have hurdles to overcome,” Mackie said, grants are “great tools to help local com­mu­nities acquire equipment that might not oth­erwise pur­chase.”

Ini­tially, the Hillsdale DPS applied for grants to put toward two new trucks, but after the grant for two new trucks was approved, Director of Public Ser­vices Jake Hammel learned of addi­tional funding in the program. After sub­mitting extra paperwork, con­firming with Hillsdale City Council, and trekking to D.C., Hammel got a grant to cover part of a third truck.

Now, three bright blue trucks occupy the garage and yard of Hillsdale’s DPS.

“I basi­cally inherited an out of date fleet and I’m willing to bite, scratch, and claw any way I can to get our fleet up to snuff,” Hammel said.

Hillsdale’s DPS uses this type of dump truck all summer long to haul topsoil and con­crete, and even uses them for grading, Hammel said. In the winter, the trucks are out­fitted with plows and scraper blades and loaded with salt.

The three new trucks replace two much older models, one from 1993 and another from 1996, both of which were destroyed, per the terms of the grant, with holes cut in the engine blocks and the chassis chopped in two.

Senior mechanic and driver Doug Buildner, now on his 19th year at the Department of Public Ser­vices, remembers taking his CDL license test with one of the old trucks.

While the replaced trucks were always DOT legal, said Hammel, the seals and hydraulics were failing.

“They had life left in them, but not a lot,” Hammel said. “We knew they had to be replaced in 3 – 10 years.”

The 1993 and 1996 trucks lacked modern emission con­trols, making them perfect can­di­dates for replacement under the terms of the Clean Diesel Act.

The new trucks produce less emis­sions which, in concert with the goal of the Michigan Clean Diesel Program, will have a pos­itive impact on public health and air quality, Hammel said. This may even affect people down to those with allergies and asthma.

The new trucks are more fuel-effi­cient, and, because of the stainless steel salt boxes and salt spreaders spec­ified by Hammel on the truck order, will dra­mat­i­cally reduce main­te­nance costs. Stainless steel gets its rust-resis­tance and char­ac­ter­istic shine from chromium, the alloying material mixed with the steel, while mild steel is alloyed with carbon and lacks the rust-resis­tance qual­ities of stainless steel. Hammel said the DPS spent $1,200 a year on rust repair to the mild steel boxes of the pre­vious trucks after three years of use, and those repairs racked up from the 1990s until now.

Com­pared with the pre­vious trucks, made by Inter­na­tional, the new Freight­liners trucks operate sim­i­larly, with the only changes being improve­ments in cab vis­i­bility and both seat and control adjusta­bility. Oper­ators may spend between 14 and 16 hours a day in the trucks, and on extreme sit­u­a­tions, even more.

The new trucks are safer; the fuel tanks on the new trucks go under­neath the doors of the cab, similar to their more rec­og­nizable rel­a­tives the 18-wheeler semis. The old trucks had fuel tanks behind the cab, which meant that in the winters, drivers had to clamber up trucks “caked with snow and ice,” Buildner said. Now, they can be refueled safely from ground level.

Buildner says main­te­nance won’t be more com­pli­cated on the new trucks, despite the change from Inter­na­tional to Cum­mings engines, but that he’ll have to relearn the muscle memory he’s per­fected inside the cab with the pre­vious trucks.

“A few years ago I had someone from the Col­legian ride with me for a couple hours, and when we got done he said, ‘How do you do that? Your eyes never left the road, you were always going back and forth between your mirrors, but your hands knew where to go’,” Buildner said.

“Now, I’ve got to learn that all over again.”