Tag Archives: Percy Powell

Dustcarts in Phoenix Arizona

Welcome to Arizona

Before I moved to Lincolnshire I used to work for a French waste management company called Onyx UK that was attempting to take over refuse collection services in the UK and I worked at a depot in Maidenhead in Berkshire and managed the Windsor contract.

One day in October 1997 the Managing Director, a man called Percy Powell, telephoned me to tell me that he had heard of a new type of refuse collection vehicle with impressive labour saving innovations that offered potentially huge operational efficiencies 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 dustcarts, how they worked or how they are made but fortunately, before I could prematurely decline, he happened to mention that the factory was in Phoenix, Arizona in the United States of America and almost instantaneously my lack of interest transformed into complete and total enthusiasm.  Did I want to visit Phoenix to see some dustcarts?  You bet I did!

And so a couple of weeks later on a miserable wet autumn day I drove to Heathrow Airport and met my travelling companions in the departure lounge; Dave who worked for the company and who, despite having no real technical background or training, had managed to convince everyone that he was an expert on vehicles and procurement, Keith who was a contract manager from Norwich and who was just as mystified as I was why he had the good fortune to be selected for this task, but like me wasn’t complaining, and then there was Allan and Ben who worked for the vehicle manufactures Jack Allen and who hoped to interest us in their exciting new dustcart range.

It was a long flight with North West Airlines but there was free drink and hot food and we made each other laugh while we misbehaved like excitable little boys going to summer camp and the first leg of the journey passed surprisingly quickly and after eight hours we landed in Dallas, Texas to make our connecting flight to Phoenix.  This involved a tedious four hour wait hanging around the shopping malls and the book shops which was excruciatingly dull, but we also spent some time, well, most of it actually, in the airport bar which was a much better alternative and it gave Dave the opportunity to begin his quest to spend Allan’s entire years hospitality budget in just three days.  Dave it seemed had a gluttonous appetite for beer and burgers and it started right here in Dallas.

Finally we made the second leg of our journey to Phoenix, or to be strictly accurate, Scottsdale, and once successfully through passport control and the typically unfriendly US customs we picked up the people carrier hire vehicle and made the short journey to the motel where we had reservations courtesy of Jack Allen.  We had been travelling for sixteen hours and Allan, Ben and Keith all declared themselves weary and ready for bed but Dave wasn’t finished just yet and he coerced me into going to the bar for last drinks and a final burger.

The term ‘last drinks’ usually implies a quick twenty minute round up but once Dave had got the taste for the beer, Allan’s room number for charging it to and fallen in love with the attractive woman behind the bar we stayed for a good long session until, way past reasonable closing time, she  finally ran out of patience and decided to call time!

My travelling companions…

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These are the full Waste Management chronicles:

Cory Environmental, Blunders and Bodger

The Tendering process

Disorganising the Work

Cory Environmental at Southend on Sea

Onyx UK

An Inappropriate Visit to The Moulin Rouge

The Royal Ascot Clear Up Fiasco

An Unexpected Travel Opportunity

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A Year in a Life – 13th October, Dustcarts in Phoenix Arizona

Welcome to Arizona

Before I moved to Lincolnshire I used to work for a French waste management company called Onyx UK that was attempting to take over refuse collection services in the UK and I worked at a depot in Maidenhead in Berkshire and managed the Windsor contract.   One day in October 1997 the Managing Director, a man called Percy Powell, telephoned me to tell me that he had heard of a new type of refuse collection vehicle with impressive labour saving innovations that offered potentially huge operational efficiencies 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 bincarts or how they are made but fortunately, before I could prematurely decline, he happened to mention that the factory was in Phoenix, Arizona in the United States of America and almost instantaneously my lack of interest transformed into complete and total enthusiasm.  Did I want to visit Phoenix to see some dustcarts?  You bet I did!

And so a couple of weeks later on a miserable wet autumn day I drove to Heathrow Airport and met my travelling companions in the departure lounge; Dave who worked for the company and who, despite having no real technical background or training, had managed to convince everyone that he was an expert on vehicles and procurement, Keith who was a contract manager from Norwich and who was just as mystified as I was why he had the good fortune to be selected for this task, but like me wasn’t complaining, and then there was Allan and Ben who worked for the vehicle manufactures Jack Allen and who hoped to interest us in their exciting new dustcart range.

It was a long flight with North West Airlines but there was free drink and hot food and we made each other laugh while we misbehaved like excitable little boys going to summer camp and the first leg of the journey passed surprisingly quickly and after eight hours we landed in Dallas, Texas to make our connecting flight to Phoenix.  This involved a tedious four hour wait hanging around the shopping malls and the book shops which was excruciatingly dull, but we also spent some time, well, most of it actually, in the airport bar which was a much better alternative and it gave Dave the opportunity to begin his quest to spend Allan’s entire years hospitality budget in just three days.  Dave it seemed had a gluttonous appetite for beer and burgers and it started right here in Dallas.

Finally we made the second leg of our journey to Phoenix, or to be strictly accurate, Scottsdale, and once successfully through passport control and the typically unfriendly US customs we picked up the people carrier hire vehicle and made the short journey to the motel where we had reservations courtesy of Jack Allen.  We had been travelling for sixteen hours and Allan, Ben and Keith all declared themselves weary and ready for bed but Dave wasn’t finished just yet and he coerced me into going to the bar for last drinks and a final burger.  The term ‘last drinks’ usually implies a quick twenty minute round up but once Dave had got the taste for the beer, Allan’s room number for charging it to and fallen in love with the attractive girl behind the bar we stayed for a good long session until, way past reasonable closing time, she  finally ran out of patience and decided to call time!

My travelling companions…

 

These are the full Waste Management chronicles:

Cory Environmental, Blunders and Bodger

The Tendering process

Disorganising the Work

Cory Environmental at Southend on Sea

Onyx UK

An Inappropriate Visit to The Moulin Rouge

The Royal Ascot Clear Up Fiasco

An Unexpected Travel Opportunity

A Life in a Year – 10th June, Institute of Waste Management Annual Conference

I have written here before about my ten year career in waste management (1990-2000) with Cory Environmental and Onyx UK but I don’t think I really mentioned the Chartered Institute of Waste Management annual conference that used to be held every June in Paignton in Devon.

The Institute of Waste Management is a sort of professional trade union.  When it started almost anyone could join but over the years it has become an exclusive club that you have to pass pointless exams to get in. Let me put this into some kind of perspective – this is not about being an architect, or a solicitor or a teacher, waste management is about picking up shit and chucking it into the back of a smelly dustcart!

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.

We were there for three nights and as well as the ludicrous extravagance of the company with people simply drinking themselves stupid there was 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.

I went to the exhibition five times with Cory and then continued to go after I had left and moved to Onyx UK.  When we weren’t hanging around suppliers looking for free hand outs we would spend lunchtimes at the Inn on the Green and consume more beer and charge it to our company expense accounts.

I didn’t complain of course because Cory and Onyx were equally unfathomable when it came to spending unnecessary money.  We stayed in expensive hotels and hung out in bars and nice restaurants but what was better about Onyx was that once a year we all assembled at Waterloo station and they put us on Eurostar train and took us through the tunnel to Paris for an annual conference which was much, much better than Torbay, even though we still went there as well.  One year when they were really showing off after buying out a competitor they took us to the Moulin Rouge for a special treat and we had champagne to drink and watched pretty ladies dancing on stage.  And they called this work!

 

Even with poor financial performance the Company kept spending unnecessary money and one day 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 bincarts 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 procurement unit under a greedy little man called Rob Stubbs that 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.

I continued to go to the IWM conference and exhibition even after I left Onyx UK but to be honest without the heavy drinking at someone else’s expense and the hospitality which wasn’t really extended to local authority delegates it all began to lose its appeal and the very last time I went was 10th June 2003.

I don’t think the IWM has a conference and exhibition any more but they were extremely good fun while they lasted.