-By Ann Sides

If you see a big municipal truck with a long, tubular snout crawling along the street gutters, don’t be surprised. Raleigh’s leaf collection trucks are beginning their second –and final—seasonal cleanup of loose leaf piles in our neighborhoods. The job is expected to finish up in February, just as tiny buds are promising a new crop of leaves for next winter’s pickup.

The city’s 22 leaf collection trucks removed approximately 13,000 tons of loose leaves last year.  The leaves were processed into mulch, according to city operations program manager Donald Mailliard. The annual leaf collection begins when there’s a big enough accumulation of leaves, usually in November.  The “suck trucks” vacuum up the remaining accumulation in a follow-up round early in the new year. The arrival of these elephant-like vehicles snaffling up heaps of leaves through their vacuum tubes is a fascinating sight, and often attracts crowds of curious children.

Mailliard told SouthWestRaleigh.com that the city uses two different types of trucks in its leaf collection program; some are flat beds with the vacuum hose trailing behind. During the rest of the year the box and tube are removed, and the vehicles are used for a variety of maintenance and repair tasks. They have a three-person crew. The more interesting trucks—the kiddie magnets—are designed specifically for leaf collection.  One operator deftly manages both the truck and the vacuum hose.

The exact timing of the leaf cleaning depends on factors like weather, but southwest Raleigh’s three collection zones, 10, 11, and 12 are scheduled for late January and early February.  “Many people say we start too late, but others say we start too early,“ Maillard said.

“Our biggest issues include people not preparing their leaves properly for collection,” he added. “Some of these are leaf piles in the street, blocking traffic; vehicles parked in the way of leaf piles, and foreign objects like rocks, limbs, and trash mixed in with the leaf piles.”

Visit the City’s Loose Leaf Collection webpage for more information on preparing your leaf piles and pickup schedules.