Living in a time of such great convenience,
it's easy to take some things for granted. The focus of
this month's spotlight, however, is an item we've all grown
There are nearly 180,000 refuse trucks on the road in North
America today. From open top mobile dumpsters, to high tech
automated marvels, refuse trucks are purpose-built tools
that perform an absolutely essential function in communities
across the country.
Industry-wide, there are basically five types of refuse
trucks on the market, each with their own application. Which
is the right choice depends on a host of factors, ranging
from the design and capabilities of the customer's collection
system, to simple customer preference.
The more sophisticated refuse trucks are designed with several
objectives in mind. Cost savings is an increasingly more
important issue for municipalities. The automation of certain
functions often enables a single person to work a collection
route, greatly reducing labor expense.
Of equal importance are ergonomic considerations and reducing
the number of injuries to refuse collectors. Collecting
trash is heavy lifting. Newer trucks are designed to minimize
the effort required to lift and empty containers. Automating
some of these motions helps even more.
The majority of trucks, regardless of style or type, feature
compaction by way of a hydraulic ram that compresses the
load to maximize the volume of material it can handle before
Front loading refuse trucks feature a hopper on hydraulic
rams that raises the load over the front of the truck and
dumps it into the body behind. "The principal advantage
of a front loading truck is speed," said Erl Henry,
regional sales manager for Kann Manufacturing Corp. "They
can also handle a variety of material types through multiple-compartment
hoppers. Recyclables can be loaded quickly into the hopper.
The unique coupling between hopper and body and keeps them
separate in the body of the truck," he said.
The Kann CoCollector front loading
truck makes fast work of collecting a variety of solid wastes.
Among side loaders, there are three varieties to choose
from. The automated side loader is designed for efficient
residential collection, typically with a single driver/operator.
From the cab, the driver operates a joy-stick controller
that grabs the can, empties and returns it to curbside.
This approach saves both time and mone but requires an up-front
investment in specialized containers.
For routes where manual collection is used, a drop frame
side loader allows collectors to remain curbside and empty
containers from a safer vantage point. This type of side
loader is common in larger cities.
Some smaller side loaders are designed with the advantage
of transfer capabilities. According to Wayne Worthington,
vice president of sales for Wayne Engineering, "Satellite
transfer is perfect for servicing subdivisions or other
locales that are detached somewhat from the rest of the
route. The smaller trucks are maneuverable and are good
for tight areas, alleyways, and back door service, getting
in and out of these areas very quickly. Then they couple
up to a much larger, rear loader and transfer the contents
on the fly," he said.
The popular TomCat side loading truck
with transfer capabilities from Wayne Engineering Corp.
Among the earliest vehicles dedicated to refuse collection
were rear loaders. As a consequence, they remain the most
common style of refuse truck on the road today. Rear loaders
lend themselves well to collecting all forms of solid waste.
This versatility makes them a popular choice for communities
unable to recycle or otherwise provide anything but general
LoadMaster's Excel packs all of the
versatility of today's rear loading trucks.
As more and more municipalities implement curbside recycling
programs, refuse equipment has kept pace with the times.
Recycling units are growing in popularity and offer buyers
a lot of flexibility. Toby Harris, manager of marketing
services for Heil Environmental Industries notes, "The
key feature of recyclers is the ability to collect all types
of recycled materials in a single pass. It's much more cost-effective
for communities to collect recyclables this way, as opposed
to making two passes down a single street," he said.
Containerization, the practice of placing certain types
of solid waste in specific containers at curbside, is obviously
an important aspect of recycling. As more and more communities
adopt recycling programs, refuse trucks must accommodate
the variety of on-board materials without mixing things
up. Separate compartments for glass, plastic, paper and
cans are an essential design consideration for recycling
Manual side loading recycling units
such as Heil's R2000 keep recycled materials in separate
In urban areas of more dense population, automated refuse
collection trucks are rapidly catching on. Jeffry Swertfeger,
director of advertising for McNeilus Truck & Mfg. explains,
"Route planning makes the difference. Automated units
can increase daily throughput by as much as three times
over a conventional rear loader. As many as 1200 stops per
day are possible on well-planned routes," he said.
Automated refuse trucks require special containers, and
tend to be more expensive initially.
In spite of a higher upfront cost, the long-term labor savings
afforded by automated units are considerable as well. "It's
entirely a one-man operation," said Swertfeger. "One
model features an articulated arm that can maneuver around
curbside obstacles and even remembers where it grabbed the
container, quickly returning it to the same spot on the
curb," he added.
The McNeilus MA is a leading choice
in the growing automated category of refuse trucks.
Of the approximately 180,000 refuse trucks in service today,
about 91% are diesel-powered. As a group, refuse trucks
are among the dirtiest and least fuel-efficient classes
of commercial vehicles in operation. More and more, communities
are turning to compressed natural gas and liquefied natural
gas powered trucks. These alternative fueled trucks are
much cleaner and quieter than diesel, and are expected to
replace more and more of the aging diesel-powered refuse
trucks in fleets across the country.