Equipment Spotlight
Refuse Trucks

-View the list of manufacturers at the bottom of the page

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 to appreciate.

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 dumping.

Front Loaders

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.
Kann Manufacturing Corp.

Side Loaders

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.
Wayne Engineering Corp.

Rear Loaders

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 refuse collection.

LoadMaster's Excel packs all of the versatility of today's rear loading trucks.

Recycling Units

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 trucks.

Manual side loading recycling units such as Heil's R2000 keep recycled materials in separate on-board compartments.
Heil Environmental, Ltd.

Automated Units

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.
McNeilus Companies, Inc.

Alternative Fuels

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.

Refuse Truck Manufacturers
Company Name
Contact Person
Phone Number
Mark Neale
Bridgeport Truck Manufacturing, Inc.
Tony Kourie
Dempster Equipment Co.
Rich Mullinax
Bill Krupowicz
Haul-All Equipment Ltd.
Robert Niven
Heil Environmental, Ltd.
Herb Wells
Ingold's Hico, Inc.
Jack Kok
Kann Manufacturing Corp.
Kathy Krieg
Terry Barnes
Mack Trucks
Steve Tercha
McNeilus Companies, Inc.
Jeffry Swertfeger
Pak-Mor Manufacturing Company
Carter Thurmond
Scranton Mfg Company, Inc.
Michael McLaughlin
Sterling Truck Corporation
Kevin Martin
Wayne Engineering Corp.
Wayne Worthington