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San Diego's a Winner in Sanitation Circles

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Driver Junius Hawkins and Mayor Jerry Sanders i

Sanitation truck driver of the year Junius Hawkins, right, gives San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders a quick lesson in operating his 28-ton truck's robot arm. Scott Horsley, NPR hide caption

toggle caption Scott Horsley, NPR
Driver Junius Hawkins and Mayor Jerry Sanders

Sanitation truck driver of the year Junius Hawkins, right, gives San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders a quick lesson in operating his 28-ton truck's robot arm.

Scott Horsley, NPR

San Diego may have the finest garbage truck drivers in the world. For the fourth time in the city's history, a San Diego city employee has won the Sanitation Driver of the Year award.


(Laughing) Good boy.

This next story deals, among other things, with what the dogs leave behind. San Diego's professional sports teams may never have won a Super Bowl or a World Series, but the city has a championship dynasty in trash collection.

Here's NPR's Scott Horsley.

SCOTT HORSLEY reporting:

Junius Hawkins has driven a trash truck more than half a million miles, fifty feet at a time. Next month, Hawkins will mark his 30th anniversary with the City of San Diego's trash department, and he's compiled a safety record that's almost spotless.

Mr. JUNIUS HAWKINS (San Diego Trash Department Worker): I've had a few scrapes over the years. Nothing serious. You can't be thinking about something else while you're at those controls, because its easy to hit something.

HORSLEY: Hawkins hit the jackpot this month when he was named Driver of the Year, by a National Trash Collector's Trade Group. The award honors safety, seniority, and customer service.

It prompted a celebration in the city's operations yard, hosted by the head of the trash department, Elmer Heap.

Mr. ELMER HEAP (Director, San Diego Environmental Services Department): Welcome everyone. And thank you for being here, and, as we recognize some of America's finest sanitation drivers.

HORSLEY: Note that Heap said some of America's finest drivers. San Diegans have actually won the driving award in four of the last seven years, a trash hauling dynasty that drew praise from the city's mayor, Jerry Sanders.

Mayor JERRY SANDERS (San Diego, California): No other city has ever had four drivers, and I am very proud. And I'm sure all of you are, of those folks. And now I'd like to see, firsthand, how Junius does his job. So do you mind giving me a lesson in this?

Mr. HAWKINS: Sure.

HORSLEY: Hawkins coached the mayor, as Sanders maneuvered the trash truck's robot arm to empty a garbage can.

(Soundbite of garbage can being emptied)

He stopped short of letting the mayor behind the wheel of the 28 ton truck, though. Both men agreed that's a job best left to the professionals.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, San Diego.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Susan Stamberg.

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