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“I basically inherited an out of date fleet and I’m willing to bite, scratch, and claw any way I can to get our fleet up to snuff,” Hammel said.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