Zephaniah "Eddie" Edwards excels at maneuvering into tight alleys and avoiding pedestrians as a Waste Pro garbage truck driver.
Edwards, who has a perfect safety record, was recently awarded $10,000 at the company's Pembroke Pines depot, the first employee to receive the award at that location.
"I haven't had any incidents in over 11 years," said Edwards, who has worked 19 years in the garbage industry. "This is my biggest award so far. I've gotten rings, patches for my shirts, but not a cash reward."
Waste Pro expects to hand out 59 Safety Awards nationwide this year, all with the $10,000 bonus.
To qualify, employees must maintain a spotless work record for three years, including excellent customer service, no accidents, injuries or property damage, as well as have a positive attitude, a good attendance record and a well-kept truck.
"We tell our guys that I'd much rather pay our money to them than to give it to an attorney," Waste Pro owner John Jennings said. "It's so amazing how aware you have to be. It's a heavy vehicle. It can do a lot of damage."
Regional Vice President Russell Mackie, who started his career as a truck driver, called Edwards "the best of the best" since he was hired just after the Pines location opened four years ago.
"This award brings attention to how difficult this job really is," he said. "We give these guys a $300,000 truck and put them in neighborhoods with children. There's a lot of pressure."
Edwards, 53, of Fort Lauderdale, attributes his success to driving slow and constantly checking his surroundings.
"I take pride in my job," he said. "I try to just be safe, do my job and go home."
Edwards hopes he inspired his fellow drivers, many of whom congratulated him with hugs and handshakes during a celebratory barbecue, to follow his example.
His children, Andre, Kemar and Shaina, all traveled from their respective colleges in Gainesville and Tallahassee to support their father.
"My dad has always been a dedicated person," said Andre Edwards, 19. "He's never complained about his job."
Fallan Patterson can be reached at email@example.com.