In February 1997 my boss Percy telephoned me to tell me that he had heard of a new type of refuse collection vehicle with impressive labour saving innovations that offered huge operational savings and that he was interested in finding out more. He asked me if I would be prepared to visit the factory where they were manufactured and give him my opinion. To be honest I had very little interest in bin carts or how they are made but fortunately, before I could decline, he happened to mention that the factory was in Phoenix, Arizona in the United States of America and as quick as a flash my lack of interest transformed into complete and total enthusiasm. Did I want to visit Phoenix to see some dustcarts? You bet I did!
I couldn’t believe my luck and enjoyed four days in the United States where as well as having to visit the Heil refuse collection truck factory, which quite frankly was a bit of a bore, I also got to visit the Grand Canyon and enjoy some top class hospitality. This was a really good trip and on reflection I decided that refuse vehicle manufacture was actually rather interesting after all. We posted the report of our visit (missing out the drinking bits of course) and offered our availability for any similar official trips in the future.
This was a good move because the following year I was sent to La Rochelle in France to look at Semat refuse trucks and later in the same year I went to Milan to see the Brivio factory. It’s amazing how interesting refuse trucks can suddenly become when there is an all expenses overseas trip involved. Later the Company set up a centralised purchasing unit under a greedy procurement manager who saved the best gigs for themselves and that was the end of the factory visits and the overseas travel but believe me I enjoyed it while it lasted.
The company never did buy a Heil sideloading refuse vehicle, they were absolutely useless for use in the United Kingdom, but I have to say that they were brilliant at hospitality. Jack Allen folded and went out of business just a short while afterwards, which was a shame and the Heil Engineering Plant in Phoenix that had opened in 1990 was closed down in August 2003 and production was switched to Fort Payne in Alabama.
In June 1991 the company (Cory Environmental) made arrangements for all the managers to attend the conference and exhibition and we stayed at the Maycliffe Hotel in St Luke’s Road in Torquay. I had already started to become accustomed to uncontrolled drinking bouts at the expense of the company whilst staying in hotels but the annual IWM conference was the equivalent of the FA Cup Final or the Eurovision Song Contest because at this event everyone went crazy.
Every June everyone in the waste management industry used to travel down to Paignton in Devon for the annual waste management conference and there were three nights of unlimited hospitality because all of the big supply companies were there and wanted to impress and sell and were prepared to pay for it. The big event and the one everyone lusted to get a ticket for was the Dennis Eagle banquet because this promised good food and high class entertainment but there was also plenty of food and drink from their competitors Jack Allen and the street sweeping vehicle manufacturers Johnson and Scarab. As well as the big events there were lots of fringe companies trying to impress, wheelie bin, plastic sacks, protective clothing and tyres and they all hospitality budgets that we were eager to help them spend.
All of that extravagance must have been a financial burden because as well as Jack Allen and Heil, Dennis Eagle went out of business on 11th December 2006.