Eight Speed Garbage Collector

I had job driving a dump truck one summer. There were a few of us hired by the plant where I worked doing outdoor maintenance, paint, lawn mowing and similar jobs.

One morning the boss asked me if I knew how to drive a dump truck. I lived in a suburb of Chicago and I was 18. How would ever have known how to drive a dump truck? “Yeah, I  can drive a dump truck,” I said. “You know how to double clutch an eight speed?”, asked the boss. “Yeah, I know how to do that” I didn’t know what a double clutch was let alone drive an eight speed.

The boss put me in charge of the truck and gave me a helper and the two of us were to visit each of the many buildings on the hundred-acre property collecting bags of trash and loading them onto the truck.

My personal car at the time was a three speed Chevy with a clutch so I knew what a clutch was but as for a double clutch I had no idea at all. Still, I managed to get the truck into the lowest gear which did make the vehicle move but just barely. Dump trucks are made to carry very heavy loads and are geared in such a way that the lowest gear will get the truck just barely moving at about 1 mile per hour. Then you have to shift to second, third, fourth and so on. When a truck starts out that slowly you really have to be fast at shifting so as not to lose the momentum of the preceding gear otherwise the thing will chug along and usually stall on you.

I managed to get the truck up though the first 4 gears alright but unless I wanted to do all the garbage pickup at top speed of  10 mph I’d have to figure out how the other 4 gears worked and that’s where the double clutch came into play.

I deduced through trial and error that in order to get to gears 5 through 8 I’d have to push the clutch down twice and then go through the normal H pattern of with the shifter. I found out that had to be done quickly just as the single clutch was in order not to lose the small amount of momentum generated by the previous gears.

I stalled the truck and number of times while I furiously tried double clutching and ground the gears pretty well doing it but finally managed to get the truck running. So off we went to collect garbage.

I thought it was great job. I got to drive a large truck around visiting all the buildings on the grounds and meet a lot of people doing it. It was garbage collection but to me it was one heck of a sweet assignment at the time.

After making the rounds we had a rather full load of garbage in the bed of the truck and the truck was loaded down enough so that we actually did need all the gears.

The grounds included a huge pit where clay for brick making had once been dug out. At the bottom of the pit was a huge incinerator in the shape of a tee-pee. We were supposed to dump our large load of trash bags next to the incinerator where later that night another crew would load the tee-pee with all the trash. They did it at night so as not to attract attention to the burning that was probably illegal. Sure saved the company I was working for a lot of money collecting and burning their own trash.

One of the key advantages of a dump truck is the dumping mechanism that lifts the large box full of, in our case trash, dumping it on the ground. It saves having to unload everything by hand that way. Naturally I didn’t know how that worked either but there was a well-marked lever in the cab so it looked pretty easy.

After I got the truckload of trash down into the pit I back it in and prepared to dump it all next to the tee-pee. It looked too easy to screw up. Well, I yanked on that lever to lift the truck bed and it worked like a charm alright but unless you want problems it turns out you need to finesse the load slowly off the truck. I just tried to dump it all at once and ended up unbalancing the load which lifted the front end of the vehicle, including my partner and I, straight up into the air giving us a great view of the sky that day and nothing else. After a moment of panic I returned the dumping mechanism lever back to its starting position as quickly as I’d lifted it and down we went very roughly bouncing off the ground a couple of times in the process. With no seat belts on we of course smacked our heads against the roof of the cab of the truck at which point the value of the mandatory hardhat became quite evident. It hurt a little but that was all.

Soon I learned to finesse the unloading of garbage and drove that truck around like a seasoned pro garbage collector. And now, if I ever run into an eight-speed dump truck with a double clutch, I’ll know what to do.


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