Cessnock garbage truck driver Alan Bailey retires after almost 42 years at council

FAREWELL: Cessnock City Council garbage truck driver Alan Bailey has retired after almost 42 years with the council. Picture: Krystal Sellars
FAREWELL: Cessnock City Council garbage truck driver Alan Bailey has retired after almost 42 years with the council. Picture: Krystal Sellars

What Alan Bailey doesn't know about driving a garbage truck isn't worth knowing.

From the days of jumping off the back of the truck to empty 55-litre tin cans, through to today's state-of-the-art vehicles, he's seen it all.

Mr Bailey retired from Cessnock City Council on Friday, just shy of 42 years' service, including about 35 years on the garbage truck.

He started working at the council as a 19-year-old in February 1980, spending the first six years in labour, construction and urban maintenance before moving into the waste department.

Back then, crews of three worked the garbage trucks, running for two-thirds of the shift and driving for the other third.

"It was hard work - you had to jump off the truck, lift the bin, tip it in, run it back and jump back on," Mr Bailey said.

"We were out in all sorts of weather - pouring rain, frost on the ground, wind, stinking hot.

"Even if it was pouring rain, you couldn't wear a raincoat because you would get too hot with all the running, so we'd come back like drowned rats.

"But it kept us all fit. We didn't have to go to the gym, so we all knew the best cake shops in town!"

PRIDE IN THE JOB: Cessnock City Council garbage truck driver Alan Bailey has retired after almost 42 years with the council. Picture: Krystal Sellars

PRIDE IN THE JOB: Cessnock City Council garbage truck driver Alan Bailey has retired after almost 42 years with the council. Picture: Krystal Sellars

One-armed trucks were introduced in 1994, and the team of 20 was reduced to six, with the others redeployed into other departments at the council.

"Physically it was a lot easier, but there was a lot to learn," Mr Bailey said.

"You learn to drive on both sides of the vehicle, in and out of cars, you're watching for pushbikes, prams, kids."

Nowadays the trucks are fitted out with the latest GPS technology, cameras and screens.

The team picks up 25,000 bins a week across the 2000 square-kilometre local government area, and works on a roster which sees every driver pick up every bin in the shire over the space of a month.

Mr Bailey said he's proud to have been on the front line of council's interaction with the community.

"Over the years I have met hundreds of ratepayers face to face, be it to organise a bin repair, or after a party to take a bit of extra garbage," he said.

"And the mums and dads, grandmas and pops, who have brought the little ones up to look inside the truck to watch the screen and show the garbage being crushed inside the truck. It's only a few minutes out of my day, but it means a lot to a little one."

PROUD: Alan Bailey wearing the waste team's old uniform, a specially-designed shirt featuring a goanna and a bulldog.

PROUD: Alan Bailey wearing the waste team's old uniform, a specially-designed shirt featuring a goanna and a bulldog.

Mr Bailey has gotten to know many residents over the years, and has even received the occasional cake and stubby at Christmas, and cards with messages saying 'Thanks for tooting and waving to me' and 'Thanks to Al, Truck 42'.

He served on the board of the former council credit union, as social club secretary for 21 years, and environmental services union delegate for 26 years.

Council's environment and waste manager Michael Alexander said Mr Bailey is a reliable worker who will be missed by the team.

"He took a lot of pride in his job," he said.

"If you had a place full of Baileys, you'd be doing alright."

In his retirement, the grandfather-of-two is looking forward to spending more time with his family and on the farm, breeding poultry and beekeeping.

Mr Bailey said the interaction with the public is the thing he will miss most about the job.

"But you know it's time to pull the pin when you walk to the mothers and they say 'I remember you waving to me when I was a kid'," he said.

FAMILY: Alan Bailey, pictured in his truck with granddaughter Charlotte in 2018.

FAMILY: Alan Bailey, pictured in his truck with granddaughter Charlotte in 2018.