Archived News

Is that a knuckleboom outside my window?

fr knuckleboomA new addition will soon be added to the town of Waynesville’s street fleet.

A knuckleboom truck with a giant claw will be replacing the team of men who once scooped up yard trimmings by hand, manually feeding big sticks into a chipper and using pitch forks to heave loose piles of clippings into the back of a dump truck.

Waynesville residents can expect to see the big knuckleboom trucks cruising residential streets in coming weeks during the twice-monthly yard waste pick-up days. 

The knuckleboom trucks are a big expense, however. It cost the town $255,000 to buy two of them.

But the town will make that money back within a year, and ultimately see a net savings over the long run, according to Public Services Director David Foster.

It’s a two-prong plan. The first part calls for cutting the yard waste crew to save on labor costs. With the knuckleboom trucks doing the heavy lifting, the yard waste crew will be scaled back from seven men to two.

Related Items

Those five men taken off the yard waste crew will be put to work on a new street crew to do road repairs and sidewalk work that the town used to contract out.

The town historically spent up to $450,000 a year contracting street repair work. Shifting that work in-house will substantially reduce what the town spends on contractors.

Foster estimates the town will save $250,000 a year on contractors — enough to cover the cost of the knuckleboom trucks in the first year’s worth of savings alone.

 “It only works in tandem,” Foster said of the two-pronged plan. “If we fast forward to budget time next year, the operational cost of the street division will see savings for the same level of service.”

There are other benefits as well. The town will have more flexibility with its in-house crews and have more oversight on the quality of street repair work, potentially avoiding future repairs or patching jobs from coming back around as soon.

And there’s another upside. Manually feeding limbs and brush into the chipper truck was dangerous work.

“We can remove the injuries and claims we get from that,” Foster said. 

The seven town workers on the yard waste crew accounted for a majority of the town’s on-the-job injuries and workers comp claims.

“It is a very dangerous job, feeding that stuff,” said Alderman Gary Caldwell.

While the town has escaped any major injuries like lost hands or arms, more minor mishaps were common, like forearm gashes from sharp limbs.

“You twist your back putting a load in the truck and that employee is out for six weeks healing up,” Foster said.

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.