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Some routes aren't roomy enough for a mechanical arm to maneuver. Contractors respond with smaller trucks.

People living on narrow roads in rural Hillsborough County discovered a problem with the county's new automated garbage collection system: The new trucks are too big for their streets.

Carissa James, who lives on Brooker Creek Road in northwest Hillsborough County, said a driver of a recycling truck told her they don't like driving down the road because they have to back out. She wonders if that's why her garbage and recycling service was spotty in the first two weeks since the county's collectors started using trucks with mechanical arms that pick up and dump new canisters designed for the purpose.

Sam Prentice, who lives on Huckavalle Road in the same area, said the truck ran into his two gate posts. After that, it started backing down the road, and a driver asked Prentice if he would roll his trash can to the other side of the road, the side where the arm can get it.

"If I have to I will,'' he said. "I don't want any more damage done.''

This week, Republic Services of Florida, which serves the area, started sending smaller garbage trucks down these roads. Patrick Rzeszut, regional general manager for Republic, said his drivers have identified between 20 and 30 roads in the county that are too narrow for the big trucks.

Kim Byer, the county's solid waste transition manager, said most of the problem roads are in the Odessa and Plant City areas. She said Republic has had more problems because it has more customers, though Waste Management and Progressive Waste Solutions, the other two contractors, are also using smaller trucks on the narrow roads they serve.

Though the new trucks are about the same size as the trucks that had been serving these areas before, the old trucks were loaded by hand from the back. On the new trucks, the mechanical arm reaches out to one side, and some roads are too narrow for it to extend fully, Rzeszut said. The smaller trucks have automatic loaders that dump into the back, since the new canisters are too heavy for crews to safely dump by hand.

Ron Jacobs, who lives on Tyler Run Road in the Odessa area, said his garbage pickup was hit-and-miss until the smaller truck showed up. Garbage was picked up along the entire street this week.

The recycling truck is also too big and has to back down the street, but Jacobs said it, too, picked up everybody's recycling this week. Before, he said, the recycling truck was consistently missing some neighbors, who resorted to throwing their glass, plastic and newspapers in the trash.

Rzeszut added that because the new trucks are 6 inches taller, the company is identifying pickup areas where overhanging branches have to be cut or utility wires raised.

Another change affects customers who live on nonplatted roads. A county ordinance and terms of the services contracts state that people who live on nonplatted county roads must cart their trash to the nearest publicly maintained road. Byer said in the past, some companies picked up the trash curbside even though they didn't have to.

Rzeszut said about 15 roads in Republic's territory are unplatted, and those customers will have to transport the trash and recycling to a public road. Exceptions will be made for disabled people who cannot physically push their canisters to a public road.

Philip Morgan can be reached at or (813) 226-3435.