March 2006

Waste haulers work to cut fuel costs and pollution emissions

Reduced idling time and adjusted route patterns have been implemented
By Brian R. Hook

Rising fuel costs and evolving emission standards are forcing waste haulers across the country to consider everything from rearranging routes to buying new trash trucks.

“If the price of diesel continues to go up, the overall cost of fuel for trash haulers is going to rise to be a more significant portion of their budget,” said Melissa Gauger, International Truck and Engine Corp. marketing manager. “They are going to be looking at manufacturers that have better fuel efficiency” for heavy-duty vocational trucks.

Manufacturers like International Truck, an operating division of Warrenville, Illinois–based Navistar International Corp., are busy designing new engines to meet the demands of waste haulers. Gauger said a number of options are already on the market.

One option to help cut emissions that is already manufactured by International Truck is engines that use low sulfur diesel, designed to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s clean air standards that are changing in 2007. These new standards will apply to model year 2007 heavy-duty trucks and are designed to cut emissions.

“There is a catalyst to take the emissions down to a level where you can not smell it or see it,” Gauger said. The one problem with these heavy-duty engines is that they use low sulfur diesel and the fuel is not widely available in certain parts of the country.

Another potential draw back to the engines is that emission controls might lower fuel efficiency. “There may be a slight dip in the amount of fuel economy that people are getting for a short time as manufacturers adjust to the new requirements,” Gauger said.

“Low sulfur diesel fuel does not have as much energy content as the high sulfur diesel fuel. The fuel is going to have less energy content than it did before.”

Gauger said it is difficult for waste haulers to improve fuel efficiency. The trucks are always starting and stopping. “You do not get as good of fuel economy as with a highway tractor, when the engine runs more at a steady-state operation,” she said.

International Truck is designing hybrid technology for waste haulers. It is working on what Gauger called a hybrid hydraulic truck. The energy from braking will be used to help move the truck. “You’re not moving the engine as much,” she said.

Gauger said waste haulers are interested in new technologies like hybrids, but she said the industry is conservative. “When changes happen to products they are very reluctant to buy those products until they are proven in the field,” she said. “Hybrid will need to be proven in other industries before waste haulers will purchase new technology.”

Mark Neale, product manager at heavy-truck-manufacturer Autocar LLC, also said there is interest growing in hybrid technology. “Unlike the automotive industry, there is not any demand for emotional reasons – there must be a payback,” Neale said.

“This market demands a very high uptime. Systems must be able to prove reliability. Additionally, weight is a major concern, so added weight makes the payback period longer. These concerns must be addressed before hybrids will gain acceptance.”

While development on hybrid technologies continues, Neale said Hagerstown, Indiana-based Autocar is already the waste industry’s largest supplier of alternate-fueled trucks, including both compressed-natural-gas and liquefied-natural-gas fueled trucks.

“Autocar is very active in promoting fuel efficiency,” Neale said. It offers products to help allow efficient matching of components to applications. “We analyze the application to make recommendations on items such as gearing and tire selection for best efficiencies. Seemingly non-related items like steering can affect fuel efficiency,” he said.

Wayman Pearson, key business executive for the City of Charlotte Solid Waste Services, said his staff is always evaluating methods to improve fuel efficiency. Some of the methods implemented over the years by his division include, adjusting route patterns, reducing idling time, and adding hybrid passenger and midsize vehicles to its fleet.

Another efficiency method being considered is the addition of a landfill. Pearson said the staff is investigating options for a disposal location at an additional site closer to the areas covered by his division in the southern part of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Pearson said Solid Waste Services is currently looking at truck options for one of its zones, but it is not considering hybrid trucks because of price. “Our decision to purchase trucks is in many ways dependent on our ability to maintain our competitive edge,” he said. “My staff and I believe that purchasing hybrid trucks would hinder us.”

Solid Waste Services in Charlotte does plan to retrofit approximately 100 diesel-powered vehicles with pollution-control oxidation catalysts. It won a grant from the EPA for $100,000, to help cut pollution.

Mike Wegner, solid waste manager for the Solid Waste Services in Abilene, Texas, said his department is also trying to improve fuel efficiency. He said his department uses the Operate-in-Gear-at-Idle system from Heil Environmental Industries. It helps the side-loaders and front-loaders operate an improved hydraulic system.

“We are saving five to ten percent on fuel costs,” Wegner said. He said the department is studying hybrid trucks for the future and is also trying to prepare for the new EPA regulations that will add more pollution prevention requirements.

Houston-based Waste Management Inc., the nation’s largest provider of waste and environmental services has already reduced an estimated 247 tons per year of harmful air emission from its fleet of garbage and recycling trucks across the state of California.

Eric Rose, director of communication for the western division at Waste Management said that out of the company’s statewide fleet of 2,742 trucks, 1,390 trucks met the July 1, 2005 deadline for the early implementation. Waste Management permanently retired 181 trucks, deployed 415 trucks that operate on natural gas and retrofitted 795 trucks with pollution controls such as oxidation catalysts or filters.

The California Air Resources Board, a state regulatory group, created a schedule for all 1988 to 2002 model year trucks to be equipped with pollution controls by the end of 2007, forcing the state’s 12,000 garbage and recycling trucks to reduce emissions.

“We focused on California first because of our severe air problems,” said Rose who is based in Simi Valley, California. He said California is leading the way and he expects other states to follow. “We are committed to reducing diesel emissions,” he said.


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