ROCKDALE – Homeowners who mark when their garbage is picked up by the sound of the passing truck will need to perk up their ears by the start of December.
That's when Waste Management, Inc. will start replacing its Rockdale district fleet of diesel engine garbage trucks with compressed natural gas trucks.
"The natural gas engines are much quieter and better for the environment," said District Manager Lisa Lorenz. "It will increase efficiency and allow us to go into communities with noise restrictions."
Lorenz said several municipalities regulate the times garbage trucks can pick up trash because they make too much noise. The natural gas trucks will allow Waste Management to alter routes and send trucks at hours that make operations more efficient.
Waste Management has taken the first step toward the conversion by laying the groundwork for a natural gas fueling station outside the Rockdale facility. Right now, it's just a ditch. But by December, the site will be able to fuel 50 trucks.
"Once it's built, we'll have 20 CNG trucks," Lorenz said. "They will be slow-fill bays ... the trucks will refuel overnight."
The company will slowly replace 120 diesel trucks with natural gas trucks. The diesel trucks will be transferred for use in other Waste Management facilities.
In addition to reducing noise pollution, the natural gas trucks' emissions are half of what the diesel trucks put out. And they carry about 50 gallons of fuel, allowing them to run a full-day route.
Waste Management has already started transitioning trucks at its Wheeling and Stickney locations.
"We have people who say, 'You didn't pick my garbage up today,' because they didn't hear the truck," said Lisa Disbrow, spokeswoman for Waste Management's Illinois and Missouri Valley area. "But we check and can tell them exactly when we came to their home."
The investment in natural gas fuel reduced fuel emissions and increased efficiency by 15 percent last year, eight years ahead of the company's goal.
The natural gas trucks cost about $40,000 more than diesel trucks. But officials say the price tag is worth it.
Residential driver Luis Lara said the trucks will help quite a bit.
"I'm very excited about it," Lara said. "Sometimes we have to hear each other above truck noise. The natural gas trucks will be quieter."
Lara said he also appreciated Waste Management's commitment to be "greener."