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High-Tech Truck Helps Sanitation Workers Keep Their Hands Clean

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WILSON — Garbage collection may not be an Olympic sport, but spectators inWilsonare enjoying a new trash truck that has a winning attitude.

The machine is designed to cut down on labor costs, and it is certainly generating a lot of second glances.

The truck looks like it rumbled right out of a low-budget Star Wars movie. A big robotic right arm does the work of two employees, and it is fast.

Ben Ellis has been collecting trash in Wilson for 24 years and is among the first to pilot the back street behemoth.

"There's a lot of hand control to it," Ellis says. "You've got to watch what you're doing. Once you get used to it, it's very easy."

Though the technology dates back to the 1980s, this is one of the few one-man trucks on the road in the eastern part of the state.

"This is the first time I've seen it," resident Ralph Robbins says. "It's pretty neat. I just hope it doesn't cost anybody their job."

It will not, according to the man who runs Wilson's collection system.

"The city will not be laying off any employees," says Fred Battle,Environmental ServicesSuperintendent. "As a matter of fact, this would enhance our process and allow us to take on new growth without adding employees."

The truck costs about $30,000 more than one without the arm. City leaders say it will save nearly 10 times that amount in labor costs during its lifetime.

The one-man truck could be the wave of the future in garbage collection, as yet another industry works to do more with less.