Few people know the name of the sanitation workers who collect garbage and trash in their neighborhoods, but residents on Terrance Johnson’s routes will have a chance soon to know who’s serving them.
He’ll be driving a gleaming new brush collection truck with his name and a noteworthy accomplishment painted on the doors.
An employee of Republic Services for 16 years, Johnson recently received one of three “Driver of the Year” awards the Environmental Industry Association gave during an industry trade show in Phoenix, Ariz.
Johnson, 35, picks up limbs, brush and other yard debris and various kinds of trash deposited curbside in Denham Springs, Baker and another part of East Baton Rouge Parish.
In addition to the awards and recognition he received at the convention, Republic Services rewarded him with a new truck outfitted with a cargo bed and boom-operated grapple.
Johnson estimates the vehicle cost more than $300,000. It’s his, and his alone, to drive on the job.
Johnson has a perfect safety and accident-free record and drives an average of 800 miles per week to cover more than 13,000 stops.
“It meant a lot,” Johnson said of his selection from among 900 nominees for the award.
“It shows all of your hard work pays off. It makes you want to (operate) more safely and pass it on to your co-workers and try to make them safer, too,” he said.
“It’s really meant a lot.”
He covers the entire city of Denham Springs on Mondays and Tuesdays, part of East Baton Parish on Wednesday and Baker on Thursdays and Fridays.
Baker Mayor Harold Rideau said he developed a rapport with the award-winner when Johnson called him a long time ago.
“He gave me his cellphone number and told me if we saw a legitimate pile of trash — not a tree that a contractor cut down — sitting there for a long time to give him a call and he’d take care of it,” Rideau said.
“He’s a Baker resident, and as a result, he has pride in this community and wants to do a good job. So I started calling him every now and then to meet me for breakfast. I try to show my appreciation,” Rideau said.
Rideau, Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden and Denham Springs Mayor Jimmy Durbin wrote letters in support of Johnson’s nomination.
“He’s one of the good guys,” Durbin said. “He’s very conscientious in his work ethic and in how he serves the public.
“He’s very safe, and when he picks up a load, very little is left on the ground,” Durbin said.
Johnson hauls an average of three loads of debris, sometimes four, to the landfill each day.
He said customers on his route can help him do his job more efficiently and safely by not throwing their trash under power lines or under overhanging tree limbs, “definitely not next to fire hydrants,” or between poles or trees.
“People love to stack stuff between things for some reason,” Karla Swacker, a Republic Services spokeswoman, explained.
“Like mail boxes,” Johnson added.
“Boom stuff can be primarily woody stuff, because it can be so bulky and heavy, but it’s also other bulky items, like household furniture or metal objects. The limitation to his truck is that he can’t pick up little tiny pieces,” Swacker said.
A rear-loading truck works in tandem with Johnson to deal with the smaller piles of debris, and regular garbage truck drivers stay in contact with him to let him know about large piles that need to be collected, she said.
Johnson’s father, Gerald Johnson, also drove for Republic’s predecessor companies for about 20 years, he said.
He hasn’t always driven a brush truck. He has driven regular garbage trucks, worked in the company shop on Leisure Road and repaired and delivered bulk waste containers. He sometimes fills in on other routes.