Recent advances in vehicles and operating systems
"Time is money" goes the old saying. Nowhere is that more true than in commercial waste collection operations. Collection costs can account for 50% to 70% of a solid waste operational budget. With that large a budget, any increases in operational efficiency (measured as dollars per ton mile of waste transported) can yield significant cost savings. Cost reductions can be directly achieved by reducing the labor required to load the waste through automated loading systems. Efficient routing of the truck collection results in indirect cost savings by reducing the amount of time the trucks spend out on the road collecting waste.
Different aspects of commercial collection, fleet equipment, and operations management systems combine to determine the efficiency and cost effectiveness of a waste collection operation. A waste management firm has to analyze the cost and pricing metrics for various customers and optimize their route structures and operational strategies.
Customers are classified by the type of business, the amounts and types of materials in their wastestreams, frequency of collections, or amount of waste per stop. Rate structures can be established and unprofitable service requesters identified. Geographical information systems (GISs) can be used to record organize, and analyze customer data.
While these efforts are customer specific, route optimization is universal to all types of waste customers. By following the most efficient possible routes, a collection truck can minimize labor costs (especially overtime), reduce fuel costs, and minimize wear and tear on the vehicle. Route optimization can be achieved by simple route scheduling with paper and pencil, sophisticated routing software, integrated GPS, and telemetry systems for real-time management.
Collection Vehicles and Their Operational Characteristics
There are six types of waste collection vehicles: frontloaders, rearloaders, automated sideloaders, recycling trucks, pneumatic collection trucks, and grapplers. The first two are the general-purpose mainstays of most waste collection fleets. The last four, while useful, are more specialized and perform more specific tasks. The bulk of most waste collection fleet operation is performed by either front-end loaders or rear-end loaders that have the following attributes:
- For the most part, frontloaders collect waste from large dumpsters that temporarily store waste generated by nonresidential businesses or residential waste from multifamily housing units (apartments and condos). These trucks use a forklift to deposit waste into a hopper for containment during transport. Inside the hopper, the waste is compacted by a “packer blade” to increase its density and free up additional capacity the next load. Typically, these trucks can operate without the need for manual loaders, though they often use spotters. Recently, many operations have added an automated tipper attachment such as the Curotto-Can to allow a frontloader to handle automated residential collections as well.
- Rearloaders accept residential waste from small individual trashcans. These are emptied manually by two or more loaders that accompany the truck on its collection rounds and are emptied manually into the rear of the truck. Some models come equipped with partially automated loading systems to assist the manual loading. These models load large waste cans, called toters, of a standardized design for automated lifting. As with the frontloader, waste is compacted within the truck by a hydraulically powered sweep-and-slide blade that sweeps the waste forward to the front of the tuck.
Efficient waste-loading operations are measured by the amount of time needed to load the contents of a single waste container of a standard weight. In practice, however, the amount of waste in dumpsters, bins, and cans (even those of equal size and design) varies considerably. The cycle time depends on both the method of loading and the amount of waste that the loaders can lift. At the low end of the productivity scale is the purely manual loading commonly used for rear-end loaders. The amount of waste that can be lifted into the truck in a given time period is limited to the human strength of the loaders and the speed at which their merely human bodies can move. At the higher end (and higher costs) are those fully automated, heavy-duty mechanical loading systems that can be operated by the truck driver alone, without need of additional loaders.
By the Numbers: Collection Costs and Pricing Metrics
Total labor costs, fuel costs, and other maintenance and operating costs associated with waste collection and hauling are directly or indirectly related to the amount of time a waste collection truck spends out on the road. The total collection time for an individual truck to complete its collection route(s) and deposit waste in the landfill is a function of several factors:
- Travel time to the truck’s collection route starting point at the start of the workday and the time needed to return from the completion point at the end of the shift
- The time needed to complete its task, from when it starts collecting waste until the truck is full or its route is completed
- If the amount of waste on the route exceeds the truck’s hauling capacity then the number of trips a collection truck will take to the landfill becomes a factor, as does the time needed to drive a fully loaded truck to landfill (along with time for queuing, weighing, ticketing, unloading and return to the collection area.
- Non-task time, such as time spent on refueling, meals, and other breaks for the driver and loaders
The number of customers combined with the frequency of pickups along with the total cycle time per collection route will determine the total number of vehicles required by a waste-hauling fleet. The value of the total number of customers times the number of pickups per week divided by the product of number of customers that can be served by a single truck per shift and the number of shifts per week give the number of vehicles required.
Of all these factors, the key to minimizing the time and costs associated with a waste collection operation is the time spent by individual trucks on their routes. Reduction of route time means fewer trucks needed to service the same number of customers. This is where routing software makes its mark. Additional cost savings result from reduced labor costs by mechanizing the act of loading as much as possible. This is where automation can lead to significant savings.
Nationwide, the average hourly wages for waste collection loaders and drivers range from $13.49 to $18.42 with overtime pay as high as $28.03 (as of July 2010, www.payscale.com). Assuming a typical workweek with overtime, a waste truck loader could make an average of $20 an hour. Factoring in nonsalary labor costs (such as insurance premiums and bonuses) and the average hourly labor cost per loader could range between $25 and $30 an hour. A typical crew of a nonautomated collection truck (one driver and two loaders) would cost their employers between $75 and $90 an hour. Assuming a typical 10-hour workday and 5.5-day workweek and total annual labor cost per truck would run $236,000.
Second only to labor cost is the cost of fuel consumption. How much fuel is used during a typical collection route depends on the efficiency of the route it takes. Diesel engines typically use approximately 1 gallon of fuel per hour for every 20 horsepower of power depending on engine load and operating efficiencies. Most diesel engines used by waste collection trucks run from 350 horsepower to more than 450 horsepower. Assuming a midrange 400-horsepower engine, a waste collection truck would use 20 gallons of diesel fuel per hour on average. At the current price of diesel at the pump (midsummer 2010 in the Midwest) of $2.90 per gallon, each hour of operating on truck would cost $58 in fuel. With a typical 10-hour workday and 5.5-day workweek, total fuel cost per truck comes to almost $3,200 per week, or $166,400 annually. For a medium-size regional (multistate) waste-hauling operation with a fleet of 1,500 to 2,000 waste collection trucks, the total annual fuel bill could run $250 million to $300 million. Total equipment maintenance, repair, and financing costs for this truck fleet could raise these costs as high as $500 million.
Suppliers of Collection Routing Systems and Controls
Waste collection routing isn’t just a simple matter of getting from Point A to Point B. It is actually a complex iterative process that takes into account the number and types of waste pickups along the route, distances between pickups, the amount of waste at each pickup, the holding capacity of the truck, roadway layouts, local traffic patterns, and weather conditions. What collection routing software does is lay out the most efficient route possible based on available information and known variables. The ideal route would be a smooth loop-like pattern without dead ends or the need to backtrack. Time and money spent driving the same pavement more than once is time and money wasted.
As a result of properly applying routing software to the problem of efficient waste collection and hauling, a waste company can decrease costs, eliminate unnecessary overtime, provide timely service, keep tighter controls on crew accountability, and balance workloads more evenly across the collection vehicle fleet. Though often requiring significant upfront manual data entry to get the system started, routing software quickly pays for itself in improved efficiencies and greater cost savings. Routing software systems are built on databases and computerized roadmaps, but they are run on GISs integrated with the software by means of global positioning system (GPS) technology. The GPS allows for real-time vehicle movement tracking. This allows for the truck’s locations to be displayed on the GIS interface of the collection and routing software display. Data on movement, times, or locations can be either passively downloaded for later data retrieval, or actively broadcast via cellular phone or radio link. Dynamic route optimization, where a route can be updated to reflect traffic and weather conditions, is becoming more common and will soon be widely available.
Mobile311 is a supplier of innovative route optimization and GIS software phone applications. An application of particular use to waste hauling route optimization is their Mobile311 smart phone application. There is no software to install; Mobile311 securely hosts user data, making it accessible from any Internet connection. Data can be directly exported to a Work Order System or an Excel spreadsheet. Mobile311 lets users easily flag work items in the field. With one touch, the location, time, and type of work are instantly uploaded to a Web-based map via a smart phone application. It runs on most touchscreen phones running Windows Mobile. It allows managers to view, oversee, and create work requests allowing for updates in real time. The phone’s GPS can be used to record locations, and its camera can be used to take and upload pictures.
RouteSmart Technologies pioneered the application of advanced automated routing technology to waste collection vehicle route planning. RouteSmart for ArcGIS is designed to integrate with ESRI’s ArcGIS family of products and can often use pre-existing GIS data. RouteSmart Technologies continuously enhances its product line to maintain compatibility with all new releases of ESRI ArcGIS desktop software and NAVTEQ map data. A close business partnership with both ESRI and NAVTEQ allows for timely updates to ensure compatibility. The software provides four unique methods to balance routes and cluster workloads, including trade-offs between methods: operating time, available personnel and vehicles, number of homes serviced or total route capacity, and driver assignment based on geographic preference. Collections can be optimized by sequencing stops and factoring time of service restrictions at each location. Additional route optimization constraints allow for the appropriate accounting of all types of turning movements, local speed limits, and side-of-street collection constraints.
RouteSmart Technologies has installed collection routing systems for major cities such as San Diego, Charlotte, Sacramento, and Philadelphia. The GIS-based capabilities allow for the software to be used for other tasks besides route optimization. The GIS allows its user to overlay prospect data on its customer database. Waste haulers have used this capability to analyze sales territories and other business data to make better decisions about how to allocate networked resources. The software also supports collection day analysis and balancing of multiple frequencies of collection service (e.g., 2-times-, 3-times-, and 5-times-per-week customers).
Telogis provides Telogis Route, a Web-based, scalable, multivehicle route optimization tool. Being Web-based, this software package is easy to deploy, saving time, hardware, and startup costs. Not only does it create new routes, but it also allows for the importation of existing routes for analysis, modification, and optimization. Routes can be organized spatially with geographic boundaries and temporally taking into account future customer requirements and subsequent workload balancing. The system allows for real-time progress monitoring and immediate feedback on the costs of running a fleet. As a Web-based system, Telogis is equipped with an intuitive user interface and allows for paperless route assignments with a voice navigation system. Based on the Telogis GeoBase geospatial platform, it is provided with detailed mapping data such as bridge height and weight, historic and real-time traffic, and custom-routing rules, such as avoiding left-hand turns. Telogis allows the user to balance resources based on what matters most: worker hours, miles driven, revenue per mobile worker, or time onsite. Dynamic routing is a standard feature, with built-in flexibility to account for changes in available personnel, vehicle use, weather, and traffic patterns in a timely manner.
More advanced features, such as delivery windows, driver skill set, and specialty vehicle equipment, are modeled along with costing factors, such as fuel economy, driver rate, and job revenue, to calculate optimal schedules. Telogis Fleet includes real-time GPS tracking data, GIS overlays such as land-use grids and parcel data, powerful Web-based mapping, and cloud computing resources to generate large fleet reports. Additionally, Telogis Fleet provides an intuitive Enterprise Dashboard that can be configured exactly to match business requirements. A new module, Fleet Management Alerts, enables fleet maintenance managers to receive configurable automated alerts on a range of parameters, including engine hours, odometer, date triggers, battery voltage, and PTO utilization.
|Photo: E-Z Pack
The Hercules front loader features a durable powder coat paint finish.
The Wittke Starlight’s body is constructed entirely of Hardox-treated wear plates.
Cityworks by Azteca is a GIS-based route optimization system. Actually, it is a suite of integrated software applications (Desktop, Anywhere, ServerMMS, Designer, Datapump and Storeroom). Though not a GIS itself, Azteca’s Cityworks builds on GIS capabilities without additional integration costs. Utilizing the data contained in the GeoDatabase, Cityworks allows for managing, creating, and tracking activities associated with specific addresses. These include handling requests for service, conflict resolution, work orders, tests and inspections, ad-hoc search, and reporting. Off-the-shelf database modules are available for specific tasks. Cityworks is built to open standards allowing for complete data access via an open architecture that allows for easy integration into existing business systems. It is fully compatible with Microsoft Office and is supported by standard databases such as Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle.
Manufacturers, Methods and Mechanisms
The key to improved productivity in the field or on the factory floor is an investment in capital improvements and automation. Only these areas can yield significant increases in productivity as well as significant reductions in operating costs. Major waste truck manufacturers are emphasizing and improving their lines of traditional rear-manual loader trucks even as they introduce more specialized automated loaders and grappling arms.
Heil Environmental is a major manufacturer of waste collection trucks and equipment as well as an industry leader in specialized truck body manufacturing. It is part of Dover’s Environmental Solutions Group, which encompasses three companies: Heil Environmental (refuse collection trucks), Marathon Equipment Co. (waste compaction, baling, and recycling), and Bayne Premium Lift Systems (cart tippers and carry cans). Together, they create fully integrated and automated solutions for waste collection and hauling. Heil has been manufacturing fully automated “robotic arm” collection truck bodies for more than 20 years.
The mainstay of Heil’s line of front-end loaders is its Half/Pack, which includes patented clamp-on arms, John Deere hydraulic cylinders, advanced electronic controls, and system diagnostics. Built for durability with interlaced subframe, high-tensile steel construction, and Shur-Lock tailgate locks, the Half/Pack is designed for long operational lifetimes and enhanced operational safety. A version of the Half/Pack, the Sierra Western, was specifically designed for the western United States, where vehicle weight limitations are critical. With all of the same features as the main model, the design of the Sierra Western has been updated with 13% less weight.
Heil rear-end loaders include the PowerTrak series of waste collection trucks. The PowerTrak is based on a patented dual-track system. Instead of moving its shoes or rollers along a single track during sweep and pack cycles (requiring the top drive cylinder to operate at a sharp angle of resistance, increasing friction and power needs), the PowerTrak utilizes a dual-track system with the top cylinder having its own drive track. This reduces the angle of resistance, greatly improving operational efficiencies, applied pressure, and compaction ratios. With higher compaction ratios, the PowerTrak’s hopper can contain more waste, resulting in fewer stops and improved operating cycle efficiencies.
While Mack’s TerraPro Cabover line is built to handle the abuse of the vocational marketplace, it features interior appointments designed to maximize driver comfort with easy-to-reach switches and easy-to-read gauges. The MP7 engine has a horsepower range from 325 to 405, while the MP8 provides horsepower from 415 to 485. The series features 300-hour or 16,000-mile oil drain intervals (whichever comes first) and provides convenient access points that make servicing a snap. MP engine platform incorporates selective catalytic reduction technology to meet today’s stringent emissions rules
E-Z Pack manufactures garbage truck bodies and assembles refuse trucks with the goal of simplicity of operation and rugged durability. By keeping things simple, the operator can be more productive. This approach means that the company avoids inclusion of onboard computers and specialty tools for repairs. This results in lower costs due to easier maintenance.
E-Z Pack’s Hercules commercial frontloader is known for its ease of operation, productivity and long-term service. Unlike other frontloaders, the Hercules uses no computers or PLC to control body functions, reducing the learning curve for operators and simplifying maintenance and troubleshooting. Like all E-Z Pack bodies, the Hercules frontloader also features a powder coat paint finish—unique in the industry—that is superior to wet paint finishes for coverage and durability. Intelligent hydraulic routing, Smart Steel construction, and the advanced Gladiator pack/eject cylinder are other key benefits of the Hercules frontloader.
E-Z Pack rear-end loaders include the large-capacity Goliath G400 and the smaller, operationally flexible Apollo A300. The Goliath is a heavy-duty truck with the industry’s largest hopper (4 cubic yards), lowest loading height, and a compaction ratio (up to 1,200 pounds per cubic yard) among the highest in the industry. The higher capacity and greater density means more stops per hauling cycle and greater operational efficiencies. The more affordable and nimble Apollo is suitable for situations requiring a smaller payload. Its trackless hopper design results in easy maintenance and operations.
The Labrie Environmental Group is a Canadian player in the waste collection truck market.
Labrie front-end loaders include the Wittke Starlight and the fast operating Wittke Superduty. Starlight’s body, constructed entirely of Hardox-treated wear plates is resistant to abrasion and designed for long-term durability. The Superduty emphasizes speed of operation (with reduced cycle times for loading, carrying and discharge) allowing for the most pickups in a given time span.
Labrie’s 2R-11 and Alpha III model rear-end loaders emphasize large capacity. Both models have a packer/carrier panel design that allows for continuous loading of trash into the hopper even while running the hopper sweep cycle. Construction with single-piece side and roof sheets without seams gives these truck bodies superior strength. This strength is match by its Diamond Force compactor, which can achieve waste densities of over 1,000 pounds per cubic yard.
Telogis Fleet provides an intuitive dashboard that can be configured to match business requirements.
Fontaine Modification Co. upgrades waste collection trucks for greater operational efficiencies. Fontaine designs, engineers, and converts trucks to meet the needs of municipal, utility, military, construction, emergency, and refuse industries. One unique modification for waste collection trucks is the “stand upright” drive. Meaning exactly what it says, this modification allows the driver to drive the truck while standing up. This makes the driver’s job easier since he no longer has to get out of his truck hundreds of times a day, greatly reducing physical stress while reducing the number of steps between the driving station, the garbage can, and the tipping point on the waste collection truck. Furthermore, they can modify waste collection trucks to include sit-down dual driving stations that feature toggles to work controls, right-side operator pedals, and easy-access controls and gauges.
Lodal is a supplier of custom-built refuse haulers. The vehicles in Lodal’s EVO Smart Truck series are designed as fully integrated machines. The cab, chassis, and body are designed and custom manufactured to allow for efficient operation with a one-person crew. The company’s front-end loaders come equipped with an automatic, hydraulically actuated, one-piece hopper cover for smooth and continuous performance. It has a high-capacity GT bucket loader, hydraulically operated tailgate locks, and self-connecting/disconnecting positive rod controls.
McNeilus has been designing and building waste collection trucks since 1991. The company’s Atlantic Series front-end loaders come standard with AR-540 abrasion-resistant sidewalls and front-arm loader lift capacity of 10,000 pounds. The similar Pacific Series was designed for the West Coast market, where minimizing vehicle operating weight is of critical importance. Both are available in configurations that allow for the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel.
McNeilus also offers several lines of rear-end loaders with operational standards based on extremely fast packing cycles (16 seconds). Their design features tag axles actually built into the tailgate, resulting in superior weight distribution on all three axles and ease of handling. The HD is a heavy-duty truck with more powerful cylinders and larger bodies that can handle demanding routes, including commercial applications. The XcExtra is at the high end of waste truck capacity, being the company’s heaviest rear loader, with the highest compaction and greatest capacity. For more price-conscious operators, the McNeius Metro-Pak offers great value in a relatively small package. Agile enough for single-axle operation, it can still handle congested residential routes. At the smaller end of the scale is the 11-yard capacity MR, a truck that can negotiate such tight operating spaces as gated communities and narrow alleyways.
Size really doesn’t matter when it comes to applying these tools of efficiency to commercial and residential waste collection. Metropolitan areas of any size can adopt these methods.
Collection GIS Software Comes to Mayberry
Asheboro is a small (population 21,672 as of the 2000 census) town located in the heart of North Carolina in Randolph County, not too far from the town of Mount Airy, considered by some to be the inspiration for the fictional Mayberry. Sheriff Andy would be impressed to learn that Asheboro has received an “Outstanding Achievement in Innovation” award from the Alliance for Innovation (an international network of progressive governments and partners committed to transforming local government by accelerating the development and dissemination of innovations) for its use of the Mobile311 program.
The city’s Mobile311 program is a GIS-based tool used to efficiently send field data and route information directly into the main administrative office. A flexible and easy-to-use system, it utilizes touchscreen mobile phones with cameras as data collectors. This allows any city employee with a properly equipped cell phone to submit information on utility issues, sanitation routes, maintenance projects, or graffiti, directly back to the city office in real time. One of the most useful phone apps is the ability to leave GIS data points known as “breadcrumbs.” These allow for constant GPS tracking to monitor the status of routes and equipment. Data collected by this customized GIS application, allowing supervisors and staff the ability to track projects, maintain records of service, explore trends, and monitor the efficiency of operations.
Like all communities, Asheboro’s city government strives to reduce costs and overhead wherever possible. The city started the program in 2008 as a way to reduce expenses, especially fuel expenses in the sanitation division. Prior to this, sanitation trucks were making pickups at every Asheboro household two times a week to remove household waste and collect recyclables. Additionally, a pair of brush trucks and a second pair of bulk trash trucks would complete the cleanup process by cruising up and down every street looking for waste items to remove, a process that could last from one to three weeks to complete.
Now, however, city employees armed with a simple icon on a touchscreen mobile device can mark the GIS location of every bulk waste item, pile of rubble, or any other waste location in need of a visit by a collection truck. Using the phones, employees can also document and geographically tag site conditions. Within 24 hours, city workers can see exactly where they have to go, know what it is they have to collect, and plot the most efficient route (in conjunction with other pickup points). Relating these types of data to a physical location using the GIS software makes it much easier to store and recall than placing it in standard computer files. The resultant savings in fuel, vehicle maintenance and worker overtime have been significant.
Impressed by the performance of the sanitation department, the city’s departments of public works, the police department, and the code enforcement commission has adopted this system. This system has found uses in tasks as varied as reporting streetlight outages, locating pot holes, documenting water and sewer pipeline breaks, eliminating graffiti and gang markers, tracking code violations, and locating other breadcrumb items. City supervisors can monitor the status of each recorded site, reviewing information from a variety of locations without having to physically visit the sites in question, eliminating the need for multiple cross-town trips to check on the progress of various projects.
Bright Lights, Big City
Compared with Asheboro, Los Angeles is a behemoth with a population of over 3.8 million that produces 1.5 million tons annually. Responsibility for managing this waste flow rests with the Solid Resources Collection Division (SRCD) a division of the LA Bureau of Sanitation. A normal workweek includes collection of refuse and yardwaste recyclables from over 2.3 million containers. In addition to its standard collection routes, the SRDC employs 60 special collection drivers for bulk items like furniture and appliances who make up to 55,000 special pickups each month.
Until recently, managing this Herculean task was a manual process, remaining so until the SRDC adopted RouteSmart and its GIS-based planning software. Manual reports and paper orders were the norm, as were daily 30-minute planning meetings—time that could have been spent more productively in the field. Reporting errors (especially the manual recording of 13-digit serial numbers) were frequent, and even accurate data had to be re-entered manually by clerks back at the central office.
Since LA had long used ESRI software as the backbone for its spatial data and applications needs, RouteSmart software was chosen for regular pickups, since it plugs directly into the ESRI ArcGIS desktop framework with which the city was already familiar and experienced with applying. ArcGIS manages the city’s GIS data and served as the GIS application framework for the RouteSmart system used by SRDC for automating its continuous routing operation. RouteSmart leverages all of this existing GIS framework and was a perfect fit for applying its own unique algorithms to accommodate continuous routing specific needs. Routes for continuous service operations, as planned by RouteSmart, as well as driver assignments and service areas are distributed via electronic and hardcopy outputs to crews. Overall operations efficiency is up, costs are down, and time-wasting coordination meetings are a thing of the past.
The Human Element
It’s all well and good to adopt the latest technology, but even the most advanced automation and sophisticated routing software will be wasted if the human element is ignored. Republic Services, one of the giants of the waste industry is not so big that it ignores the human element. It shows this emphasis by devolving decision-making further down the chain of command to the man on the spot. Its management approach is to democratizing decision-making, allowing for routing issues to be decided in the field, assisted by onboard computing. Too often, the ability to monitor routing activities in real time by the central office leads to micromanaging. Republic’s approach is that the opposite approach can be employed with the same technology, leading to significant savings in maintenance and operating costs while improving safety and customer service.
From the home office to the cab, Republic has re-engineered the job of waste collection operator via ergonomics. Though ergonomics is usually applied to office workers, the design and implementation of technical advances for use in the cab. The goal is to achieve maximum comfort, safety, and convenience. For example, communications has gone far beyond the truck driver’s traditional CB radios. They have been replaced by cell phones that have been augmented to allow communications with the dispatcher at any time or the sending of voice transmissions directly to the dispatchers e-mail box of later review. Text messaging allows for simultaneous communications with multiple trucks, while orders can be dispatched without disturbing the driver while driving. Onboard navigational computers give audio directions all along the route. Drivers in the near future will receive audio safety warnings when approaching a customer site with no driver interaction required. Electronic order formats eliminate the need for hardcopy route sheets as well as written driver logs. Warnings can be issued in real time for blocked stops, safety hazards, and pickup opportunities.
Easy access to this technology is as important as the technology itself. Manual reach and visual imaging must be optimized for ease of use. Controls and displays must be easily visible in all kinds of lighting. They must be within easy reach and require the least possible numbers of keystrokes while being logically arranged and organized. Distractions must be minimized and allow for remote monitoring by onboard cameras. All of this effort is designed to increase the ease and comfort of the driver. It can be lonely and stressful on a hauling route and access to GPS, RFID, and cameras can provided the necessary reassurance. The cameras especially can protect the driver against frivolous damage claims.
The technology can also check itself, providing maintenance warnings and information concerning truck diagnostics to the driver and the dispatcher via e-mail. Driving behavior can be monitored with alerts issued to managers as needed. Drivers making mistakes can be corrected and coached to improve performance.
At a deeper level than mere training, Republic places greater emphasis on the health of its drivers. Back in the day, being a “trash man” was a job that required significant physical labor. Lifting heavy waste cans ensured that a loader’s job was anything but sedentary. However, with the advent of automation, many trucks are operated by a driver who never has to leave his cab. As a result, many drivers have gained enough weight to put the renewal of their commercial driving licenses in jeopardy. Republic moved proactively to create a wellness program to head off this problem.
The results have been nothing short of impressive. The pilot program ran from mid-December 2009 through mid-March 2010, and 41 employees signed up. The average weight loss over this three-month period was about 30 pounds, which is impressive when one considers that the “heavy-eating holidays” are in this timeframe. The program had great success, with several participants losing 40 to 70 pounds. Two brothers each lost over 40 pounds, and one maintenance manager lost an astonishing 70 pounds, inspiring others to participate in the wellness program. Phoenix was the location for Republic’s first wellness center. Because of its success, the company is going to open seven more wellness centers at various other Republic Services locations across the country, including the Fall River, MA, facility that will open in three weeks.
With improvements in morale and health came increases in operational safety and worker productivity, along with corresponding decreases in injuries, sick time, and health insurance claims.
It’s a perfect example of making technology serve people instead of the other way around. MSW
Daniel P. Duffy is an environmental engineer employed by CEC Inc. in Cincinnati, OH.
Author's Bio: Daniel P. Duffy, PE, writes frequently on the topics of landfills and the environment.
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