As the adage goes, all garbage is local. Therefore, it takes a particular collection truck for each specific application. “There’s not much new,” observes Skip Berg, national sales manager, Labrie Envirogroup, but after pausing for a moment, he mentions an industry focus on food waste and organics.
To better serve that segment of the market, Labrie has a patent for a pendulum packer to eliminate the horizontal packing ram—a mechanism that pushes trash horizontally and is actuated by a cylinder behind the blade. Wet material flows around the edges of the horizontal packing ram, creating maintenance and safety issues when cleaning it.
Labrie’s design moves the cylinder outside the area of the ramp and is hinged so it moves in a circular motion. “There’s nothing behind the ramp—no cylinder to clean or risk getting damaged,” emphasizes Berg, which explains the resurgence of this model in conjunction with the demand for food waste collection trucks. “What’s old is new again.”
Another adaptation of an existing model for food waste collection is Labrie’s Top Select, an original design top loader with two to seven compartments for picking up different recycling streams at the curb for precise onsite sorting. Body-mounted partitions are on rollers for easy adjustments in 6-inch increments. The addition of a low-entry cab conversion makes it suitable for one-man operation.
“It kind of went away with single-stream collection, but with the Chinese market unavailable, the recycling market has changed,” says Berg. Although he never anticipated this for food waste, he says it has become popular for that market.
China’s National Fence initiative has put a renewed focus on clean, separated recyclables, states Don Ross, vice president of sales and marketing for the McLaughlin Family Companies. “In some markets, there is a desire to return to source-separated recyclables and move away from single-stream programs.” Program changes such as these create opportunities for companies like New Way to explore new designs with their customers, and, in fact, New Way will be introducing a dual-stream unit later this year to address this specific need, indicating that “most design changes are driven by market conditions and programmatic changes.”
One significant change over the last 10 years regards the level of complexity of both the body and the chassis. “On the chassis side,” observes Curtis Dorwart, Mack Trucks refuse product manager, “changes to the powertrain and emissions have probably been the most dramatic, from early diesel particulate filters to the selective catalytic reduction systems of today.”
Ross concurs. “The biggest change to chassis in the past decade has been emissions management. Whether that is through modifications to exhaust systems or the use of alternatives fuels such as CNG, most chassis changes have been driven by federal regulation.”
All that powertrain technology requires a complex electrical and electronic system to better support sophisticated control systems on both the chassis and the body. With that comes increased use of sensors and controls that integrate well with the chassis and help improve safety, productivity, and ease of troubleshooting.
Mack recently adopted and implemented the TMC RP170A electrical interface, giving the refuse industry a standardized electrical and electronic interface between the chassis and body for the first time.
In addition to proactive diagnostics, the Mack GuardDog Connect telematics solution enables technology for Mack Over The Air, remote software and parameter update capability. Mack also continues to expand its fleet management solutions with additional partnerships such as Lytx; a pre-wire option for Lytx equipment is now available on Mack LR and Granite models that helps improve driver safety.
“Improving productivity, uptime, and the ease of body up-fit are all prioritized, but safety remains as the biggest design priority,” concludes Dorwart.
“Safety is number one, not fuel economy or even productivity,” states Mark Faro, senior manager of sales strategy for EconicSD, Freightliner, which is focusing on collision mitigation and blind spot minimization.
For them, safety centers around a number of features that overlap with driver comfort, such as lower cab height, low seat position, low entry, a glazed bi-fold door, smaller hood, and panoramic windows.
Safety goes hand-in-hand with liability. Therefore, out of concern for pedestrians and bicyclists, in particular, Freightliner has been influenced by New York City’s Vision Zero program. Created by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014, the program was designed to eliminate all traffic deaths and serious injuries on the streets by 2024. In order to reach that goal, the plan includes criminal charges against traffic violators, speed limit reduction from 30 to 25 miles per hour, slow zones, increased enforcement, more use of cameras, quicker repair of broken traffic signals, and more.
Another program Freightliner has aligned with is Transport for London’s Construction Logistics and Community Safety focused on construction site safety and managing work-related road risks. The CLOCS initiative is aimed at reducing collisions, injuries, and deaths involving construction vehicles and others on the road.
Incorporating more sensors, backup cameras, and alerts, as well as offering automatic braking and enhancing visibility, helps Freightliner target those safety goals. The Side Guard Assist feature issues an alert for blindside moving objects or stationary objects if the truck is moving, Faro points out.
Safety also goes hand-in-hand with driver retention. Freightliner has three beta trucks in Portland. According to the feedback, Faro says drivers reported that they would “take a cut in pay to drive this truck because it felt safer.”
They likely also felt more comfortable, thanks to air suspension, front and rear, and a cab that can be lowered from the standard 19 inches so that there is only one step versus three. “A low entry means less repetitive knee injuries,” points out Faro. There are seating options allowing “a couple guys in the middle” to be belted so that “all four have a place to ride inside.”
Designed with a purpose-built cab to solve issues, Freightliner trucks feature a digital dash to reduce driver distraction and a walk-through cab with a high roof so drivers don’t need to exit on the street side.
They’re also designed to make life easier for the technicians who service them by incorporating integrated power trains, axles, and drive lines. “We did the system front to back,” explains Faro, “with the same architecture for a more efficient drive train without third-party components.” They worked on better integration with body companies because, he says, “we don’t want them to move or modify anything.”
One way to keep body companies from moving or modifying parts is to build the entire machine in-house. “The industry has learned to accept a product completed by two entities,” observes Jim Johnston, president of Autocar. “It has held us all down.” His idea is to offer “a complete tool to the end-user” by mounting a roll-off chassis on the new DC model at the Autocar factory for a completely integrated product. Installing on the production line eliminates the risk of third-party damage. “We have complete control.”
They do work with most body companies to prepare chassis for body mounting, but now offer the Power of One level of integration on the ACX with three body companies. Ross says the newest concept in solid waste vehicle design is integration between chassis and bodybuilders and cites Autocar’s, along with New Way Trucks’, recent debut of the Power of One integrated automated side loader and front loader as examples. “These trucks come from the chassis manufacturer with much of [their] body mounting hardware and controls systems already in place. Items like cameras, control joysticks, and wire harnesses are installed as the truck cab is being assembled. Frames come with body mounting brackets and body pivots already installed, and air and fuel tanks and other frame-mounted hardware are in their final locations before reaching [us] for the body mounting process. This integration speeds the body up-fitting process and eliminates rework and any potential opportunity for assembly error.”
“We install the body mounting components and all the cab and wiring controls,” adds Adam Burck, vice president of brand management. “When it’s delivered to the body company, they just drop the body on and connect the hoses. There is no moving axle position or lines.” If brake lines are moved, he explains, body company technicians can’t do the same calibration of brake timing, which becomes a safety issue because it can increase stopping distances.
But it’s not just a matter of where the refuse truck is constructed. Autocar has designed an all-new truck, as opposed to adapting attributes to an existing platform. “It’s what should have been done long ago,” emphasizes Johnston. “This truck is designed for refuse, from the curb-backward.”
Autocar built the first truck in America in 1899 and focused on cab-overs until 1926, when it began to build conventional format trucks. The style remained dominant for years, but in 2001, the cab-over again took precedence. “We’re bringing back the Autocar DC conventional truck,” says Burck, “but we’re building it differently. It will be all new.”
Design priorities include maximizing uptime, meaning the truck breaks less and is able to be fixed faster if it does. “We tried to eliminate things that cause problems,” explains Burck, “and enable faster diagnosis and more productivity.”
Productivity includes getting the most work done through increased payload, lower weight, and adequate workspace for crew and driver, all for the lowest cost of operation. A side-by-side comparison of the costs of operation indicates that the DC will be $150,000 more profitable than its competitors.
Autocar is the first truck manufacturer to launch anew type of steel frame rails: 160,000 psi steel, with greater tensile strength, as opposed to the usual 120,000 psisteel. “It’s 24% stronger and 24% lighter,” underscoresBurck. It eliminates the use of frame rail liners, eliminating the problem of frame rail corrosion, and frees up hundreds of pounds for payload.
Autocar is also the first manufacturer to bring the Cummins X12 engine to the refuse market. Burck reports that it’s radically lighter, is radically lower cost to maintain, and has lower DEF and fuel consumption. The 12-liter engine achieves up to 500 hp and weighs less than the 11-liter engine. He estimates a savings of $174,000 in scheduled maintenance costs over its lifetime.
The electrical system, often the biggest source of service problems and downtime, has been completely upgraded in the DC and now incorporates smart fuse boxes. A new way of routing and clipping has been used to enhance the integrity of the electrical system, and new covers are used on the harness to deter animals.
Inspection and service points are grouped together to make it easy to do daily checks. It’s also easy to look under the hood, with only 5 pounds of pull force needed to open it to nearly 90 degrees—and with a work light under the hood for service after dark.
Air and fuel lines are separate from the electrical lines, running down different sides of the truck for ease of maintenance. Battery cables have been re-routed to make visual inspection easier and for damage resistance.
There were no compromises to accommodate production efficiencies, Burck insists. “We’re not adapting a dump truck for refuse—moving axles, retrofitting the electrical system for cameras, etc. We’re building a whole new refuse truck.”
In the Cab: Visibility and Driver Comforts
A new-from-scratch cab in the DC offers the best visibility due to having the most-raked windshield for upward visibility and a sloped hood for downward visibility, Burck claims. DOT reports on accidents and injuries reveal that Autocar refuse trucks had 20% fewer accidents per truck and 40% fewer with injuries. Part of the reason for that low number is that visibility translates to safety and productivity. Autocar hired a visibility consultant, resulting in full corner windows for 360-degree visibility.
Better ergonomics also aid backing and side views. “Improved vision and fewer accidents serve the customer through increased uptime, reduced operating costs and maintenance costs, and increased productivity,” stresses Burck.
Not only is the driver space ergonomic, with legroom in the three-man cab, but its design lends itself to increased productivity. “Harmonic studies show that low-frequency noise causes fatigue,” reports Burck. Therefore, resonant vibration in the engine RPMs has been eliminated in the panels and suspension.
According to Johnston, among the top five customer priorities are eliminating low-speed collisions because the drivers are distracted. Autocar removed cab distractions in an effort to reduce incidents. Therefore, the DC and ACX feature the first-ever full digital display in refuse trucks. An integrated information system with a 7-inch diagonal screen is in the dashboard for easy viewing.
Removing the gauges in favor of a digital display allows drivers to focus on only their immediate needs. Gauges are connected to a smart electronic system that is programmed to alert the driver and the technician. “With one button, it diagnoses itself, and shows the schematics and routing of the wiring,” indicates Burck.
Auxiliary switches and gauges can be easily installed on conveniently placed mounting points in the steel dash. This customizable option enables owners to add camera system route management, body controls, or other systems. The entire dashboard is serviceable. “Every panel is anodized aluminum with quick-release fasteners,” elaborates Burck. The new cab is an optimized combination of steel and aluminum with cast-corner reinforcements that make it light but safe. The steel doors and roof are damage-resistant.
Drivers and Mechanics
The key to driver retention, Johnston believes, is to give them good equipment. Aspects such as turning radius, ingress and egress, digital display, and reliability/dependability are factors that help keep drivers in the trucks.
But he recognizes that it’s also important to please the technicians who work on the vehicles. Features such as the one-touch self-diagnosing harness assembly and data from trucks focused on repairs and response not only keep technicians happy but also keep trucks running.
Accessibility is critical. For the new DC, Autocar engineered access to hard-to-reach service areas and located sensitive components inside the cab. The controller and HVAC filters were moved inside the cab to prevent damage, dirt, and grime, and to provide better access.
Ultimately, however, Johnston believes that the future of the industry is safety.
“Safety features are always improving and New Way works closely with our customers, dealers, and our industry associations to address safe operations in all of our products,” states Ross.
In addition to safe, operator-friendly systems, some of the highest design priorities today are high compaction and fast cycle times. Customers are also looking for ease of maintenance. Foss says things like CanBUS systems that can identify error codes that point mechanics to the problem are popular.
Refuse bodies have also had some significant changes to increase ease of maintenance, including new features such as underbody or remote valving on front loaders. Additional changes include longer lasting and improved durability of residential automated side load lift arms and versatile container lifting devices.
Some customers are looking for a less technical approach to collection vehicles, according to Ross, who says New Way Trucks has reintroduced its air-controlled front- and side-loader units in response to customer demand. “Customers want a vehicle that is less complicated; technicians are highly coveted, so vehicle manufacturers like New Way are working with their customers to design refuse equipment their technicians can easily maintain.”
Another chassis modification in recent years has been the adoption of super-single wheels and tires in refuse applications such as front-end loaders, a design that has crossed over from their success in over-the-road long haul equipment.
New Way Trucks’ RotoPAC auger-driven side loader is probably the biggest change in body design in recent years, Ross believes. “The RotoPAC, originally designed for organics waste, also does an excellent job with MSW. Its auger replaces packing cylinders and delivers the highest legal payload of any side loader available today.”
Continuing Evolution: Hybrid and Electric
Few changes to the body are required for a hybrid vehicle, Berg says. However, he explains that the typical collection body runs on hydraulic power; therefore, “if it’s all electric, there’s no traditional engine for the PTO. Instead, you have to use batteries and motors because you need a motor to drive the pump.” Payload suffers due to battery weight, making it an undesirable option.
Electric/hybrid technology “has a ways to go,” pronounces Faro. “It’s requested more for ground services at airports, where chargers are available, and big cities, where there are high congestion and a focus on reducing carbon footprint. But the battery technology isn’t there yet for more general use.”
Conversely, Dorwart believes that electrification is one of the most talked-about subjects in product development for refuse applications. “There is a growing expectation of having cleaner, quieter, and safer refuse trucks in the near future [that are] enabled by electrification, though several hurdles remain to be overcome.”
Electrification could be a “big disruptor” in the industry, Dorwart continues. “Mack has announced that we will be demonstrating a vertically integrated, fully electric Mack LR model truck in 2019, so we are hard at work innovating for this emerging technology.” In fact, Mack plans to demo a fully electric Mack LR model in partnership with the New York Department of Sanitation.
Electric and hybrid-powered chassis have also seen growth in recent years. The biggest news in electric trucks, says Ross, is 100% electric for class 8 trucks. “Prior to now, most all-electric units were typically smaller and lighter weight vehicles.” New Way is at the forefront of this development and currently has projects underway with BYD to build several 100% electric class 8 collection vehicles, including both rear load and automated side load units. “Our goal at New Way is to help our customers meet their environmental and sustainability goals.”
The industry is changing but remains set in its ways. However, it is beginning to embrace technology: analytics, big data, and more. Faro foresees more use of sensors for diagnostics, allowing truck systems to “talk” to each other. Dash displays will feature load sensors to measure front and rear weights.
Other things he sees coming down the pike include electronic brake proportioning, which automatically adjusts the pressure so the tires wear evenly, and active brake assist on stationary objects and moving objects in the front of the truck. “Currently, no one can stop for moving objects,” says Faro.
Some of the factors that influence design changes include regulatory changes—both local and national—for things like exhaust emissions and greenhouse gas reduction, braking performance, and other safety standards. However, some improvements are customer-driven, particularly in areas like operator productivity, comfort, and fleet efficiency.
Faro says that rear loaders are currently outpacing ASLs, capturing about 40% of the sales tally because it’s easier to pick up trash with them since they have better curb access, and they also perform better in tight urban areas due to their shorter wheelbase.
New Way continues to improve on what Ross calls its record-setting line of rear loaders. Later this year, New Way will unveil a new high-compaction body. The unit is designed to meet a number of factors including compaction, large hopper capacity, low clearance, and flexible container attachments, as well as being extremely price-sensitive. “We are also releasing a split body design for those unique one-pass markets and those areas that currently collect, or will return to, source-separated recyclables. New Way is also working on a smaller ASL aimed at the non-CDL driver market.”
No matter which body and chassis, what design features are offered, or how high the price tag, Berg says demand for refuse trucks is high—so high that the manufacturers can’t keep up. “The wait list for small companies is third quarter 2019,” he cautions.