What’s in a word? Plenty! Some words are inspirational, some generate an emotional response, and others convey excitement or action. But then some simply invite apathy, and they’re just sort of, well, boring. When you hear the word “maintenance” you know this is true. It’s not exciting and not very evocative unless you include the overpowering sense of obligation it suggests.
Maintenance for every municipality is a must-do activity and the most appreciated fleet managers are the ones who practice good maintenance to keep vehicles on the road and prevent downtime. A city’s fleet of trucks, a few or a few hundred, whose job is to collect trash, must surpass “dependable.” They must be exceptionally reliable because a missed or late route is unacceptable to the taxpayers. We asked several companies to describe how their particular product or service contributes to the very important role of maintaining the capacity of the fleet to provide consistent refuse collection.
There Is Heavy Lifting
Making maintenance a safer and less arduous task means getting a good look at your truck systems for troubleshooting and routine housekeeping. Peter Bowers, the Technical Sales Manager at Stertil-Koni of Stevenson, MD, describes how their heavy-duty vehicle lifts make that worker’s job safe and thorough.
“We are the market leader in heavy-duty vehicle lifts and our bus and truck lifts assist any maintenance effort on transportation, refuse trucks, and other municipality-owned vehicles. With a full range of lifting needs, we can offer portable lifts such as mobile column lifts, and in-ground piston lifts with its axle engaging, inground scissor lift configuration called the ECOLIFT. For low clearance vehicles we have an innovative inground telescopic piston DIAMONDLIFT that is now available,” he says.
Bowers says that MSW managers evaluating a vehicle lift for their fleet should use a five-point checklist before making a decision.
“This includes choosing only machinery certified by the Automotive Lift Institute (ALI) that has stringent industry standards, and to always be mindful of the maximum height of a facility for workers to work underneath the vehicle, as well as the weight of vehicles to be lifted so that the lift is certified to meet that capacity.”
He adds that electronic synchronization of a lift system will ensure that a lift elevates smoothly—even with unequal weight distribution—and a lift system should also be equipped with a means to prevent unauthorized access to lifting operation: “This could be a locked control box or a secure key ‘wand,’” suggests Bowers.
With safety for workers at the top of the list, Bowers says all Stertil-Koni machines have several safety features, such as an independent mechanical locking system whose narrow locking interval of 1.375 inches on mobile columns can be heard locking into place.
“We also have an automatic overload protection that prevents operators from lifting a vehicle that is heavier than the lift capacity, plus our wireless Mobile Column Lifts eliminate the need for interconnected communication cables and this averts the risk of tripping on lines by workers.”
Other safety features such as the provision for manual lowering in a power failure, automatic stop for highest lift position, and lighting for in-ground flat pit covers all increase safety reducing the potential for accidents.
The company is also well aligned with mandates for municipalities to go green, and Bowers says their EARTHLIFT is the first hydraulic green mobile column in the industry made with recyclable components. The active energy retrieval system allows operators to achieve 35% more lifting cycles at a maximum lifting load.
Keeping workers safe and fleet trucks clean and well-maintained is all part of the mission of the company. “Our many industry-changing features offer municipalities, the military, state agencies, corporations, and any market with large vehicles a line of lifting solutions with efficiency [and] safe and exceptionally engineered products.”
Staying In Tune with Customers
Since the mid-1980s, the McLaughlin Family Companies and New Way Trucks have taken truck manufacturing for the refuse industry to ever-improving levels. John McLaughlin, the founder of Scranton Manufacturing, whose agricultural products included livestock gates and trailers, took a bold step and built his first refuse truck after facing a business downturn in the mid-’80s. Then, after acquiring New Way trucks, his company set out to refine the original designs of his initial small side loader and small rear loader.
Today, Don Ross, Vice President of Sales and Marketing of McLaughlin Family Companies, says these efforts focused on a number of design and engineering improvements, citing, “The biggest one was the curved side compaction body.”
“This modification removed side bracing channels, eliminated large amounts of welding, reduced labor, and resulted in weight savings while improving compaction.”
He adds that what were once refuse truck options, such as LED lighting, ergonomic operator controls, and multi-camera systems, are now today’s standard features.
“Major technologies that fleets expect to see are high compaction rates; efficient, long-lasting yet lightweight curved shell body designs; data acquisition tools; and ergonomic operator controls.”
He says other big shifts are new engine technologies, largely advanced by alternative fuels such as CNG (compressed natural gas) which has required new fuel storage designs, different safety controls, and fuel handling processes.
“More customers are also expecting new onboard fuel storage designs and are asking for automatic lubrication systems, narrow wheelbase, and body options for better clearance in tight areas. They also look for flexible options for multiple container lifting devices including bolt-on reeving packages for future planning.”
But while the innovations to the refuse truck market have experienced spectacular new technologies for safety and efficiency, Ross says the industry is in a quandary for personnel and faces a skill shortage.
“CDL driver shortage and demand for skilled technicians is causing service delays and even disruptions in certain markets,” he says, “and we are working hard to address both of these staffing issues.”
“The design of the New Way non-CDL side loader utilizes the exact same operator controls as our full-size Sidewinder automated vehicle, so a driver can learn the basics of automated waste collection in a smaller, less demanding, non-CDL vehicle.”
Then, when that driver crosses over to the larger Sidewinder after being commercially licensed, “The driver has already mastered the collection operation and understands key business elements.
“The potential intimidation factor of the larger vehicle to a new driver is reduced because they already have a strong level of comfort with its operation, and more of their focus can be directed towards driving the CDL vehicle and not performing the collection functions.
“New Way believes that grooming drivers in similarly equipped trucks will help with employee recruitment and retention while leading to safer operations.
While vehicles are complex and can be challenging to diagnose and repair, Ross also adds that as a result of customer feedback, New Way has started producing its air-controlled Sidewinder model, something that had been previously discontinued and replaced with electronic controls.
“Many of our customers like the electronic controlled CANBus models, but some still want the original air controlled units; New Way now makes both! Our CANBus units now have diagnostic features to help techs troubleshoot and repair issues quickly, should they arise.”
Recalling the company growth and its success, Ross says that their first exhibition showcased one truck in a modest booth at WasteExpo, but times have changed.
“I think we are planning to have a large booth in 2019 with nearly 10 trucks on display throughout the show—we’ve come a long way in the last 30 years. There are now over 400 employees in four separate facilities who are manufacturing the broadest product lineup of any refuse equipment manufacturer.
Back Down on the Ground
When you have optimal tire performance by using the right tire for the right job, it can go a long way toward driver peace of mind, says Nick Davis, Goodyear Marketing manager.
However, he adds that waste haul trucks have different and specific tire needs.
“Equipping trucks with the wrong tires can lead to suboptimal performance and waste haul truck tire needs are determined by application, surface conditions, truck type, and other factors.
“So we encourage waste haul fleet owners and managers to consult with Goodyear Commercial Tire & Service Centers and authorized, independent Goodyear commercial tire dealers when purchasing their tires.”
Davis says that the company offers a full portfolio of waste haul truck tires that meet the rigors of the job.
“For example, our puncture-resistant Endurance WHA is the perfect choice for waste trucks that often roll across debris-strewn surfaces, which sometimes lead to unexpected tire punctures and expensive vehicle downtime.
“Then we offer the market the Goodyear G289 WHA and the Goodyear G296 WHA that are available with Goodyear’s exclusive DuraSeal Technology. This instantly seals nail-hole punctures of up to 1/4-inch in diameter in the tire’s repairable tread area.”
However, maintenance is essential for any tire and Davis emphasizes that inflation is “one of the simplest and most effective maintenance practices that a waste haul fleet can employ.
“Both over- and under-inflation should be avoided since both conditions change a tire’s footprint. Under-inflation can be particularly detrimental as it can contribute to premature and/or uneven wear. It also can cause tires to flex more as they roll down the road and can impair fuel economy since under-inflated tires force truck engines to work harder,” he says.
To help operators make sure their waste haul truck tires are running at the correct pressure, operators can use the Goodyear Tire Optix, which is a recent addition to Goodyear’s Total Solution.
“In this program, trained Goodyear tire technicians use a special scanning device to electronically capture tire data like air pressure and tread depth. This information automatically uploads via Bluetooth to a cloud-based platform for password-protected storage and easy access.
Finally, he recommends other maintenance “must-do’s” including pre-and post-trip visual inspections and “especially to check for unusual wear patterns. Also look for cuts, cracks, blisters, and other anomalies. If conditions are severe, the tire should be taken out of service. If questions arise about tire condition, we strongly recommend consulting a Goodyear tire expert.”
Just Like Your Mom Said
Truck operators have it all over the moms of the world who claim they have eyes in the back of their heads. Indeed, since its founding in 2001, Alliance Wireless Technology developed industry-leading integrated Doppler radar object detection for vehicles in 2008. This is a huge benefit for operators of large vehicles who need those “eyes in the back of the head.”
According to Jeffrey Swertfeger, director of marketing at Environmental Solutions Group (ESG), other innovations include the Driver Behavior Video technology in 2010 and J1939-based Vehicle Activity Information Systems (3rd Eye Cam) in 2013.
He explains that ESG is a family of companies with several members—3rd Eye Cam being the most recent addition.
“We build segment leading garbage trucks under the Heil brand—trucks that have redefined how garbage is collected throughout the globe—since 1901.
“ESG is also the home of the Marathon brand of compactor and recycling baler, long-held as a household name with retail giants, big box stores, hospitals, and universities—just to name a few.
“Then there is the Bayne brand of cart tipper and the Curotto-Can automated front-load carry can that is found anywhere garbage is being commercially collected. Today, 3rd Eye is the newest member and represents the future of onboard vehicle safety systems, including real-time video and Enhance Vehicle Behavioral Analytics (VBA), used by fleet owners to monitor assets, train drivers, and validate proof of service.”
Swertfeger says that maintenance is always a key issue with any refuse hauler because “The unit needs to be out on the route collecting trash to benefit the company’s bottom-line.
“A truck down because of maintenance can cost a fleet several thousand dollars per day but trying to understand the health of the vehicle—and the components on the vehicle—is key to that goal.”
For example, he cites the benefits of 3rd Eye and the 3rd Eye Digital solutions for Heil customers who install this system.
“They will have the real-time data feeds of critical chassis and body systems as well as on-vehicle video and collision-avoidance radar.
“In addition, vehicles with 3rd Eye’s patented Hurricane Gateway can access data, such as fuel consumption by the teaspoon and the location of hydraulic events. These monitoring systems are an essential validation tool that can help operators secure Fuel Excise Tax rebates, understand hydraulic cylinder pressure anomalies, and be aware of changes in temperature fluctuations.
“Furthermore, with 3rd Eye systems in place, fleets in 17 states can apply for rebates when they can prove their vehicle was operating off-road.”
In other words, Swertfeger says 3rd Eye technology “allows fleet owners to truly understand the language their trucks are speaking.”
While some technologies are specific to particular technical hardware, he adds that the 3rd Eye can be retrofitted to most chassis and bodies to allow for many core features of 3rd Eye Digital Solutions.
3rd Eye is unique in combining data with video imaging simultaneously. Then by storing this information in the cloud, “you can have an immediate review and download your data to any number of back office routing and maintenance software applications,” explains Swertfeger.
Customers looking to use the system will engage with the sales team who helps them determine the problems they are looking to solve, and from there, “We can configure a solution that will exceed their expectations.”
As maintenance goes, Swertfeger observes this topic is becoming ever more complex as vehicles themselves have evolved in complexity. He asserts that maintenance and awareness of vehicle performance before problems arise is imperative.
“This goes a long way to reduce any financial strain that may occur when trucks are down and unable to do their job.
“3rd Eye Digital Solutions provides fleet owners with the information to make better, smarter decisions. Understanding and monitoring the health of their vehicles’ systems is critical to a company’s profitability.
Answers in 15 Minutes or Less
While their motto, “Always Up,” has been the hallmark of performance for more than 120 years, Indiana-based Autocar continues to push the envelope for excellence. To meet the increased demand for custom-engineered trucks, Autocar Solutions’ Mike Thompson says they recently added a 1.2 million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Birmingham, AL, “that officially opened with the April 2018 ribbon cutting.”
With more than 25,000 of their trucks in operation at any given time, Thompson, who is the director of the Autocar Solutions Technical Command Center, says, “One of the most important things we can do is to keep a customer’s truck in service. We build them to last, and we support them with a 24/7 unlimited free technical support for the lifetime of that truck,” he says.
He says that this technical support includes a streamlined professional response system whose success starts with well-trained personnel.
“Our Autocar Solutions technicians are not a bank of phone operators taking in calls and passing the buck to 10 other extensions. They’re personally responsive and very knowledgeable because they themselves are all trained mechanics, many with military experience. Once you have worked as a mechanic on a fighter jet you’re not only used to being held to exceptionally high standards, you understand the nuances of keeping all mechanical operations in perfect working order, and doing on time all the time.
“This comprehensive background, experience, and attention to detail are immediately conveyed to our customers who appreciate that they are treated as individuals with specific individual needs. Every call coming in is a case study of one, not an impersonal script-run service.”
Thompson explains how Autocar “Always Up” motto is conveyed to their market through the service maintenance operations.
First, a customer will either call or send a text or email to contact the Autocar Solutions Center. After asking for the last six digits of the vehicle VIN number, the technician can immediately find the record of that vehicle. This investigation will report if the problem reported is a new or open repair order, “and he can see immediately everything about that truck; how it is outfitted, where it is, and what it does. But that’s not even the best part,” says Thompson.
“When faced with a problem that keeps you off the route, nobody wants to wait around for answers and our maximum allowable response time to every inquiry is 15 minutes, but more often it is under four minutes.
“Can you imagine submitting a repair or service ticket for anything in this day and age and getting individual, and actually helpful, responses in less time than it takes to make a cup of coffee?”
To ensure this level of precision, Thompson says they have a big TV where the emails, calls, and texts for new tickets are visible and which are accompanied by a clock, and a sound bite that signals whether it has or has not been addressed.
“In fact, the chime system will eventually alert the company president if by 15 minutes it has not been attended to. But that almost never happens.”
He says they also have a screen showing where every Autocar is down, so “We have the customer picture literally, both as a visual and audio, right in front of us. Once the ticket is in process, the sound bite stops and the customer is engaged with the technician toward the solutions process.
“After we get an open ticket from a customer, we must help them take it apart, confirm the problem, get parts, and get it back on the road.
Another aspect to Autocar’s “Always Up” goal is that the Autocar Solutions technician can see the status of that specific truck and “He can diagnose from our end the fault codes on the spot.
“Sometimes guys will call in and say, ‘We are seeing this fault and what does it mean.’ Once we get their VIN number, we can look at their exact vehicle and tell them in a text message what the required action is.
“This is important because if you are on a route, the fault code might indicate you stop your route to prevent harm to your vehicle, or, it might be less crucial and you can finish your route and address the problem in the shop.”
Autocar’s Vice President of Brand Marketing, Adam Burck, emphasizes the value of having this information immediately available.
“The value of a truck is $700 to $1000 a day when it’s not working, and we know this because they use the Autocar Solutions. As a manufacturer, we want people to contact us right away to have us as the first point of contact as this helps minimize downtime and helps customer efficiency. If we can correct something on the road, right away, there’s no towing and very little downtime. And if you need to get parts, we can get them overnighted in most cases to almost anywhere.
“At Autocar, maintenance, service, and individualized customer attention are of paramount concern. When we are the first point of contact, this expedites solutions and quickly resolves problems.”
Thompson says that the Autocar Solutions center experiences 160–170 daily cases, handled by 15 technicians, and each one responded to within about four minutes of initial contact.
He adds that after years of perfecting the response time through the fail-safe systems, “We learned that if we touch each ticket three times a day, that contact and intensive attention drives that ticket to closure, and gets that truck back on the road, back on the route.”
Citing their amazement, Thompson reports a common customer response he hears frequently: “Hey, I just barely put the phone down and you are already calling me back—you guys are the best!”