City of Powell River councillors were presented with a recommendation to proceed with purchasing a third curbside automated collection truck, but councillors want more information.
At the March 24 finance committee meeting, Rod Fraser, manager of operational services, brought forward a proposal to a request to increase spending on a Mack LR truck for collecting garbage, recycling and compostable materials. Fraser said the project was first identified in 2021 at a cost of $400,000, but the truck costs $445,323, so Fraser recommended an allocation of an additional $60,000 from the city’s equipment reserve to make the purchase.
“We’re not looking for approval to purchase the truck, we are technically just looking at that $60,000 from council,” said Fraser.
He said the truck would allow the city to move toward collection of organics as a full-on stream. According to Fraser, once there is a place to take the city’s organics to, the third truck would help with collection of organics, as well as to pick up garbage and recycling.
The city received six tenders, including two with hybrid options, which have conventional internal combustion engines, combined with an electric automated arm that operates on batteries, as well as operating the dumping mechanism. These trucks were more than $500,000 in price.
Councillors had other ideas regarding the purchase of a new truck, however. Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said she realized council approved the third truck previously, but was disappointed the city’s green vehicle policy wasn’t being referenced.
“The province has $100,000 rebates for electric garbage trucks,” said Leishman. “The cost of fuel is going through the roof and I’m concerned that the cost of diesel for the trucks is about $30,000 per year per truck. When you look at the life cycle costing of the truck, I just don’t think it’s sustainable.
“I’m disappointed, because it sounds like we can’t go back and say we want a price on an electric Mack LR, because they are available in May.”
Fraser said the city is getting closer with electric vehicles.
“They are just coming in and are not mainstream just yet,” said Fraser. “We did look at the hybrids pretty thoroughly, and talked to the City of Kamloops, which has had hybrids for a couple of months.”
Fraser said the city’s two existing trucks will be coming up for renewal and that might be the opportunity to explore electric options more fully. He said trucks are typically replaced after about eight years.
Councillor Rob Southcott asked about life cycle costing. He said this can often make vehicles powered electrically cheaper.
“I’m struggling with feeling confident this is the best option from a cost standpoint,” said Southcott of the recommended purchase. “I can’t feel confident spending taxpayers’ money without a clear idea of what life cycle costing would give us in terms of the long-term costs.”
Fraser said there was not a lot of real-world data the city could lean on regarding electric-powered trucks.
Councillor wants electric price
Councillor Maggie Hathaway said she is intrigued by the electric truck. She asked if Fraser had any idea about the difference in cost between diesel and electric. She said that perhaps the government rebate and gas saving might help make up the difference.
“My question is, should we stop right here and go back and take a look?” asked Hathaway.
Fraser said electric vehicles are typically more expensive. He said hybrid vehicles are around $100,000 more. Full-on electric vehicles are considerably more expensive, he added.
Fraser said when the city put the truck out to tender, it went all across Canada and the United States. He said there were no bids for full-on electric trucks.
Hathaway said she would like a price on a full-on electric vehicle.
“I wouldn’t mind a little bit of investigation into that option,” she added, and made a motion to get information on an electric vehicle option.
Councillor Cindy Elliott said if she goes to the Mack truck website, it appears they make an electric version of what Fraser had recommended. She said she would like information so council can consider an electric option.
Councillor Jim Palm said the two main hurdles will probably be availability and delivery.
Mayor Dave Formosa agreed that Fraser should do some research and get a price so that when he comes back to council, he can outline what he finds.
Fraser recommended funding the purchase of the recommended Mack LR truck and to bring forward a report for the next purchases that will be made in 2024 so the plan can be adjusted to accommodate the increased cost.
The finance committee, however, unanimously carried the motion for more information into an electric vehicle option.
The committee also gave unanimous consent for council to look into authorizing an increase of $60,000 to the third garbage truck budget with funding from the equipment reserve.