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News >  Spokane

On the Front Lines: Garbage truck driver sees heavier loads, less traffic, more smiles

"We're pretty isolated out here," says sanitation worker Larry Frackenpohl of Coeur d'Alene Garbage and Post Fall Sanitation after his shift on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. The garbage service is running at full capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
"We're pretty isolated out here," says sanitation worker Larry Frackenpohl of Coeur d'Alene Garbage and Post Fall Sanitation after his shift on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. The garbage service is running at full capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Editor’s note: Our series On the Front Lines recognizes those in the community who are confronting the coronavirus pandemic head-on, while the rest of us do our part by stepping back.

When Larry Frackenpohl started driving a garbage truck, he thought it was just another job.

“It’s not what I expected as far as community response, if you will,” Frackenpohl said. “People really appreciate it.”

Frackenpohl moved to Post Falls about a year and a half ago. He had his commercial drivers license and had previously worked in management at a transportation company.

“When I moved here, it was kind of a no-brainer to look for a driving job,” Frackenpohl said.

What he didn’t expect was that his job at Coeur d’Alene Garbage and Post Falls Sanitation would connect him to his new community.

Frackenpohl starts his days at 6 a.m. He does his duty of inspecting his truck before starting on his residential route. He sits in the garbage truck and uses a joystick to pick up more than 1,000 garbage cans.

“I was figuring it was going to be a lot dirtier than it actually is,” Frackenpohl said of his job. “You drive a big robot, essentially.”

But with the coronavirus pandemic in full force, Frackenpohl’s view each morning is a little different.

For one thing, there are more kids, now that schools are closed, and Frackenpohl said they love to watch the “big robot” work.

“Little kids love the garbage truck,” Frackenpohl said.

For another thing, there’s less traffic.

“It has an eerie feel to it, for sure,” Frackenpohl said.

Even with most people quarantined in their homes, Frackenpohl said people on his route are still showing their appreciation.

On Thursday, someone brought Frackenpohl a bag of cookies. Another man brought him two bottles of water, since it was warm out.

“There’s always people during the summer who come out and give waters,” Frackenpohl said. “I had a guy today stop me and tell me that he really appreciates the work that we do.”

With more people at home, Frackenpohl said he thinks his loads are a bit heavier.

“I would imagine it’s heavier because people are forced to cook,” Frackenpohl said.

He also has had to pick up personal protective equipment like gloves and masks that people aren’t putting in bags, Frackenpohl said.

He said making sure everything is bagged when it’s placed in a garbage can saves him from getting out of his truck to pick up things that fall out.

While having people at home changes things for Frackenpohl, he said the smiling faces are a nice addition to his morning route.

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