Leaf collection in Winston-Salem could run a little smoother this fall, thanks to the city council’s decision to purchase two new automated leaf loaders that will replace older equipment.

The new leaf-collecting devices, dubbed “fancy dancy” by Mayor Allen Joines who congratulated Assistant City Manager Johnnie Taylor after councilmembers approved the item during a March 20 city council meeting, will hopefully speed up leaf collection this fall.

The decision awards a purchase order for two 2024 Freightliner M2 106 trucks with Pac-Mac automated leaf-collection systems from Carolina Environmental Systems, Inc. based in Greensboro. The company has offered a quotation for the vehicles at $256,986 each for a total cost of $513,972.

According to a document containing vehicle replacement information, the two vehicles that need to be replaced have been in commission since 2011 and 2014. The vehicles were acquired for nearly $150,000 each and have racked up more than $100,000 each in repair costs.

The city usually operates seven automated leaf loaders, along with about 15 pull-behind vehicles. However, this season they’d been operating at about 50 percent of their equipment force due to vehicle breakdowns, Taylor said. 

In an interview with TCB, Taylor said that the delivery of the new vehicles “will take place prior to the next leaf collection,” adding that he is “definitely expecting them in time for this upcoming leaf collection.”

The city experienced setbacks this previous leaf collection season after a trifecta of problems caused by weather, timing of leaf fall and equipment breakdowns created a perfect storm that delayed pickup.

Winston-Salem’s leaf route uses a four-quadrant system, with each quadrant receiving three leaf collections per season. This season, leaf collection began in Quadrant 4 on Nov. 7.

Map of leaf collection in Winston-Salem

Taylor gave a presentation during a Jan. 17 city council meeting after being called upon by Mayor Joines to give an update on the so-called “leaf situation.”

Taylor acknowledged councilmembers, saying, “I’m certain that many of you have received calls this year,” referencing complaints from residents: “‘Where are all the trucks?’ ‘When will they be here?’” 

“Each one of those [quadrants] affect many of you,” Taylor mentioned to councilmembers, “as opposed to thinking that perhaps one elected official deals with one quadrant.

“Everybody is impacted,” Taylor said.

Taylor noted that when the next leaf collection season begins, they will start by operating some of the automated equipment in all four quadrants. 

“We’ll use data, we will look at the tree canopies, we’ll try to determine where best to utilize those vehicles,” Taylor added.

He added that the city is working on improving the process to be more effective in the future and that the leaf map will be redesigned.

Taylor told TCB that the new plan has not been finalized yet, however, he confirmed that next collection season they should be able to “move to problem areas” more quickly.

As for the current state of this season’s leaf collection efforts, Taylor said that the city is in their third and final round of collection. 

“We’re in Quad 4, and we’re going to work ourselves around to Quad 1, 2, and 3,” he said.

New and improved

According to Taylor during a March 14 committee meeting, the two new leaf loaders are a different type compared to the ones the city has been purchasing for the last decade. He added that because the leaf loaders are manufactured differently, “they should be less labor-intensive” for fleet technicians.

“They appear to be a very good choice,” Taylor concluded, to which Mayor Joines added, “Hallelujah.”

Taylor told TCB that next collection season, the city will be utilizing eight automatic leaf loaders.

“There are several types of vehicles involved in leaf collection, and the automated leaf loaders are just one part,” said Taylor, who added that the city has between 20-30 pull-behind vehicles as well.

During the Jan. 17 meeting, Taylor discussed how weather disruptions had affected the city’s efforts to collect leaves.

“There are some things that we are able to control, and then there are some things that we are not able to control,” Taylor said.

In November, the area received nearly five more inches of precipitation than in November 2021, and in December a couple more inches of precipitation compared to December 2021.

Greensboro also started their leaf collection season on Nov. 7 and experienced many of the same issues.

“So what’s happened this year is that we’ve basically had all three rounds of leaf collection to fall at one time,” Taylor said. “When that happens, you can only collect so many leaves per day.” 

Taylor said that the large piles had delayed the city’s efforts and prevented them from moving as quickly as they had in the past.

“I will probably be coming back to you with permission to request more flexibility,” Taylor said, noting that because the climate is changing, he might request to “collect earlier or maybe even later to have a more efficient and more effective program.”

All CityBeat reporting content is made possible by a grant from the NC Local News Lab Fund, available to republish for free by any news outlet who cares to use it. Learn More ↗

Republish this story 🞬

Republishing Content

All content created for the CityBeat— photos, illustrations and text — is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivatives 4.0 license (CCA-ND).

These republishing rules DO NOT apply to all of our content. The CityBeat is a nonprofit-funded position that specifically reports on city council business in Winston-Salem and Greensboro.

You are free to republish all content from the CityBeat under the following conditions:

  • Please copy and paste an html tracking code into articles you post online, allowing us to access analytics on our work.
    It can be dropped onto the page right beneath the copyable content, available below.

    If your site is using Google Analytics already:

        gtag('config', 'UA-49884744-1');
        gtag('event', 'page_view', {
            page_title: 'Winston-Salem hopes to solve leaf problem with addition of two new ‘fancy dancy’ machines',
            page_location: 'https://triad-city-beat.com/winston-salem-leaf-problem/',
            send_to: 'UA-49884744-1'

    If your site is not using Google Analytics:

    <script async src="https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtag/js?id=UA-49884744-1"></script>
        window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
        function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
        gtag('js', new Date());
        gtag('config', 'UA-49884744-1');
        gtag('event', 'page_view', {
            page_title: 'Winston-Salem hopes to solve leaf problem with addition of two new ‘fancy dancy’ machines',
            page_location: 'https://triad-city-beat.com/winston-salem-leaf-problem/',
            send_to: 'UA-49884744-1'

  • Please use our bylines with attribution to Triad City Beat with a live link to our website: "by Gale Melcher/Triad City Beat"
  • At the bottom of the article (print or web) please include this text (links may be hyperlinked online):

    "Triad City Beat is an independent, for-profit news source serving the cities of the NC Piedmont Triad in Guilford and Forsyth counties, online at triad-city-beat.com.
    CityBeat content is funded by a grant from the NC Local News Lab Fund, online at nclocalnews.org."

  • If you have any questions, please contact Brian Clarey at [email protected]

Join the First Amendment Society, a membership that goes directly to funding TCB‘s newsroom.

We believe that reporting can save the world.

The TCB First Amendment Society recognizes the vital role of a free, unfettered press with a bundling of local experiences designed to build community, and unique engagements with our newsroom that will help you understand, and shape, local journalism’s critical role in uplifting the people in our cities.

All revenue goes directly into the newsroom as reporters’ salaries and freelance commissions.

⚡ Join The Society ⚡