It’s one thing to operate quality, innovative equipment because the cost of ownership justifies doing so. And that, certainly, is at the root of the presence of about 100 compressed natural gas (CNG) and biodiesel-powered Peterbilt Model 320s that make up the collection fleet for California Waste Solutions (CWS), the recycling services company that serves the cities of Oakland and San Jose.
But, if you think that intangibles, such as the image of high-quality equipment, in such operations don’t make a difference, think again, counsels COO Joel Corona. A premium image, both for the company and the cities it serves, has helped drive the decision to put Peterbilt trucks to work in the CWS operation—first in the late 1990s and exclusively through today.
“We wanted to upgrade the class of our equipment,” says Corona. “In our communities, our elected officials, the city staff, the consultants who work in the industry, and the residents and customers themselves have an expectation to see high-quality, good-looking, efficient, quiet, and safe equipment. Our customers want and deserve the best.
“We want them to see innovative equipment. It’s a reflection of the value and the service we provide. And, in northern California, the solid waste industry has a high profile and holds a very special place in the minds of consumers.”
SCAVENGING THE STREETS
A high-quality fleet both performs well and presents well for CWS and the cities it serves. But, the success of CWS is rooted in very humble beginnings.
David Duong is a member of a prominent and successful family that owned and operated paper mills in South Vietnam into the 1970s. But, war forced the Duong family out of Saigon with little more than the clothing they wore.
Those who found their way onto boats of varying seaworthiness sailed overseas to whatever port would take them, and the Duongs were among them. They eventually landed in the California bay area and found shelter in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, a neighborhood that housed many Vietnamese refugees. Survival in a new culture and country offered numerous challenges, but Duong took particular interest in the trash he found—or what American society often considered trash.
Featured Image: A lineup of Peterbilt Model 320s in varying body configurations is ready
to take to the streets of Oakland, California, in recyclable collection service for California Waste Solutions.
Above: COO Joel Corona (black suit, center) gathers with the CWS team that drives and maintains a fleet of Peterbilt Model 320s.
“He couldn’t believe people actually threw cardboard and fiber away, that it wasn’t a valued commodity,” says Corona. “So, he started a new family enterprise, going out and collecting it from local businesses.”
Soon, his modest business grew enough to support the development of a small fleet of pickup trucks. Then, he invested in a buy-back center, where he could process the materials and sell them to the mills that recycled such material and used it to manufacture new materials. Some of those recyclables he collected would soon be remarketed to the very mills his family once owned in Vietnam.
Impressed by Duong’s industriousness, the City of Oakland invited him to bid on its recycling operations. And, once awarded the City’s work in the 1990s, Duong knew the next step would be to upgrade his fleet.
By 2000, the first Peterbilts had begun making their way into CWS operations. Meanwhile, Duong continued to innovate new features in the manner in which he served customers. For example, CWS was one of the first to provide single-stream collection and processing services to its customers.
“It’s really just a great American story,” says Corona. “The Duongs were proud to become Americans, contribute, succeed, and help lift other people. CWS has grown to greater than250 dedicated employees.
“With a great American brand like Peterbilt representing CWS, we’re very proud of that alliance. It’s a brand of great quality, craftsmanship, workmanship, innovation, safety, design, fit, finish—we take a lot of
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Bill Laste has been the editor of First Class magazine since 1997. He is also the author of Peterbilt: 75 Years of Class, which chronicles the history and growth of the iconic truck manufacturer.