Home Truck News Thompson trucks through trash collection - Truck News

Thompson trucks through trash collection – Truck News

It can be a dirty job and sometimes physically demanding as well. Traffic in Toronto, Canada’s biggest city, and tight lots don’t make things easy. And then there are men who see a woman driving a garbage truck and follow her, sometimes taking pictures.

Samatha Thompson deals with these things and more, by focusing on her job. For the past year she has been driving an automated side loader for GFL Environmental, picking up waste and recycling from multi-residential buildings, fire halls, police stations and schools.

“Some people look at women as not being able to do certain things, or maybe [thinking] it just might be a little bit more challenging for them, and they won’t get as much done as a man would,” Thompson said.

Woman operating equipment on a garbage truck
Samantha Thompson keeps an eye on the bin while operating the truck’s mechanical arm. (Photo: Leo Barros)

That does not bother her. “It is silly. If you put your mind to it, and you really like what you are doing, you’ll get whatever you need to get done whenever you need to get it done,” she said.

The 40-year-old driver gets a lot done in a day, which for her begins at 4:45 a.m. After taking care of her two dogs at home, Thompson heads to work, arriving at the facility by 6:20 a.m. After conducting a pre-trip inspection on her truck, she picks up the day’s route and hits the road.

110 pick-up locations a day

On average, she makes 110 calls a day. Some places may have one bin, others four, and yet others 15.

“I like to get out there and do my work and don’t like messing around. I can be a help to my supervisor. If anybody has any bins left over, I’ll go and pick them up,” Thompson said.

She completes her calls in nine to 10 hours so she can go home and take care of her dogs.

Woman driver operating an automated side loader truck at GFL
Samantha Thompson operates an automated side loader at GFL Environment’s facility in Toronto. (Photo: Leo Barros)

The route is planned for her. On Mondays and Tuesdays, she heads west and Thursday and Fridays its an eastern route. She is off Wednesdays and weekends.

Garbage is smelly, especially in the summertime, but it is not as bad as people think. Thompson deals with it by keeping air fresheners in the cab and rolling down the windows. “Maggots and flies are the worst, and you don’t want them to land in your hair,” she said.

She recalls once she went home not knowing what was in her hair. “I just kept telling myself it was lettuce because I didn’t want to gross myself out. I went in the shower and kept telling myself it was lettuce. It was what it was.”

Woman on a ladder on a truck
(Photo: Leo Barros)

Thompson notes that since she is driving most of the time, the smell does not bother her. “I mean, I’m not diving into it, right?”

Wrong! She’s had to do so on some occasions. If a customer has put too much weight into a bin, the mechanical arm cannot hold it and it falls into the truck amidst the trash. Thompson has had to stop operations, climb up a ladder and retrieve the bin.

When collecting recycling, the bins can get heavy. Some customers line them up, at other places they are in clusters and Thompson must arrange them so the mechanical arm can function properly. “Sometimes, you can get 15 bins at one location, and they are not lined up properly,” she noted.

Heavy lifting

She’s also been trained on front-end and rear pack operations and fills in for others when needed. Sometimes she works with a teammate picking up and crushing furniture. The furniture can get heavy but said her colleague Miguel boosts her confidence and they get the job done.

And one never knows what will pop out of a garbage bin. Thompson once found a man inside. “He was in there scavenging. This person popped out of the bin with a hat on his head and a cigarette in his mouth. Like it was nothing,” she said.

Woman driver in her cab
Samantha Thompson said a girl gave her the stuffed toy fish hanging at the back of the cab. (Photo: Leo Barros)

She loves her job despite the occasional surprise in a bin and bump along the road. And she’d be happy if more women would join her behind the wheel.

“A lot of people think we’re supposed to be at home or in an office sitting behind a desk. We are more than that.”

Thompson said trucking pays for a lot of things that women like. “In this economy, it’s very expensive. You have to do something that’s going to bring home the bread.”

In the future, she would like to see herself in a supervisory or managerial position. “I would like to hire more women and put my little woman’s touch on the job.”

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