The latest changes to refuse vehicles are extending equipment life, reducing emissions and enhancing safety
Bob Nicholas, fleet director of Waste Pro USA, which has 1,400 vehicles working in seven states, knows that today’s refuse trucks share little in common with those that rolled along residential streets a few decades ago. The turning radius and visibility certainly have improved, and drivers enjoy a more comfortable ride, he says. Features like automatic side loaders even make it possible to collect bins of trash with a single driver rather than a crew of two or more employees.
Of course, there have been a few bumps along the way. The drivers of trucks with automatic side loaders may be more productive, but they also tend to drive more quickly now that there are no coworkers running behind them. This leads to higher heats in wheel ends, shortening the life of everything from brake components to tires, which face the added stresses of stop-and-go environments at the best of times.
The latest changes to refuse vehicles are extending equipment life, reducing emissions and enhancing safety.
The challenge deserved a technical solution of its own. It’s why Waste Pro USA now is equipping all of its side-loading trucks with speed limiters and a system that monitors the power take-off.
“When [the driver is] on the route, he has to have his hydraulic system working, so that gives us a signal,” Nicholas says. “As soon as he goes off the route, he turns off the PTO, and then he can drive the truck at full speed to go to the landfill.”
The trucks originally were limited to 25 mph and second gear when rolling through residential areas, but the speeds now are being reduced to as little as 15 mph in the search for the most component-friendly setting. “It’s kind of a win-win in many ways,” Nicholas says, referring to the benefits of added safety and an enhanced image for the fleet. “We’re not getting phone calls saying, ‘Your driver is speeding.’”
Hauling garbage better
Like these automated speed limiters, advances in today’s refuse trucks are delivering a wide array of benefits as diverse as longer equipment life, improved fuel economy and enhanced safety.
“We’re also looking at trucks that work at idle – no more speed-up, no more running a truck at 1,400 rpm,” Nicholas says. “We run them at 900 rpm, and there are hydraulic pumps that allow us to do that. That’s kind of our standard specification now. It reduces noise, it reduces wear and tear on the engine, and it reduces fuel consumption.”
The advances aren’t limited to diesel engines. The race to control fuel budgets and lower emissions are leading manufacturers and buyers alike to explore a broad list of options, including alternative fuels like compressed natural gas and hydraulic hybrid systems that capture the energy created when a driver applies the brakes.
Still, every region will present unique challenges for years to come. Natural gas fueling stations may be found readily in jurisdictions like California and Texas, but the infrastructure is lacking in other areas, says Janice Bradley, executive vice president of the Waste Equipment Technology Association. “In the next five years, they might become totally mainstream, but in parts of the Midwest, not so much,” Bradley says.
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