Engineered Efficiency

Features - Equipment & Products

When shopping for collection trucks, recyclers serving commercial clients are looking to save on operating costs.

October 8, 2012
Curt Harler

When shopping for new commercial collection vehicles, recyclers’ primary concerns are with shaving operating costs, improving fuel efficiency and ensuring reliable service.

“The single largest technology that has everyone’s attention in the recycling and refuse business is natural-gas-powered collection trucks,” says Curtis Dorwart, vocational products marketing manager for Greensboro, N.C.-based Mack Trucks. “Although the initial costs of startup and acquisition are higher, the fuel savings as a result of the technology can pencil out in a positive way in a fairly short period of time.” (See “Fill ’er Up” in the August 2012 issue of Recycling Today for more information on the benefits of compressed-natural-gas [CNG] fuel.).

“Reduction in fuel costs is a big theme these days,” agrees Ken Beaver, director of the Innovation Environmental Solutions group for Heil, headquartered in Chattanooga, Tenn. For many manufacturers, that means lighter vehicles and moving from diesel to CNG fuel.

A typical truck will consume about $30,000 per year in diesel fuel at today’s prices, Beaver figures. “CNG costs less than half that amount, even with the capital cost of a fueling station included.”

Natural gas also is a domestic fuel and burns 20 percent cleaner than diesel, increasing its attractiveness.

“If the hauler can utilize bio-methane, that reduces the carbon footprint by 90 percent compared to diesel,” Beaver adds.

With increasing source separation of organic and food waste, there is the opportunity to convert this waste to bio-methane, which can be used to power refuse collection vehicles.

Heil partners with Zero Waste Energy, Lafayette, Calif., to help haulers with conversion of organic waste to bio-methane, using its anaerobic digestion process with equipment manufactured by Heil’s sister company Marathon Equipment Co., Vernon, Ala.

The company also claims the broadest CNG offering in the industry, with in-house design and manufacturing and full after-market training and support.

Who is buying?

Local municipal sanitation departments are rapidly giving way to commercial recyclers when it comes to buying collection vehicles these days. Private haulers are already doing the majority of commercial and industrial collection, as most municipalities focus on residential collection.

“We expect this trend to continue, as municipalities continue to struggle with budgets and in some cases choose to privatize even their residential collection,” says Ken Beaver, director of the Innovation Environmental Solutions group for Heil, headquartered in Chattanooga, Tenn.

“It is a mixed bag of sorts,” says Curtis Dorwart, vocational products marketing manager for Greensboro, N.C.-based Mack Trucks. He says he finds municipal departments, outside of certain grants and incentives, are cash strapped these days. Likewise, commercial recyclers are keeping a close eye on all of their business activities.

Kevin Steinke, marketing manager with the Curotto-Can, Inc., Santa Rosa, Calif., says he sees buying interest from both municipalities and private haulers. “Municipalities want to reduce costs and increase flexibility,” he says. “The same is true for commercial haulers.”

“At the end of the day I would say that commercial recyclers are buying more, driven by business opportunity surrounding recovering recyclables out of the waste stream,” Dorwart says.

Beaver says haulers also should ask their manufacturers’ representatives how to specify the front loader to the application and particular waste stream. “The composition of the recycling waste stream can vary, and the materials and quantities that will be collected can have an effect on the performance and maintenance of the equipment,” he notes.

Vehicles that offer large collection capacities can enable haulers to save money by making fewer trips, says Kevin Steinke, marketing manager with Curotto-Can Inc., Santa Rosa, Calif. “On average, ASLs (automated side loaders) have about 30 cubic yards total capacity,” he says. “By comparison, front loaders have a 12-cubic-yard hopper and a 28- to 31-cubic-yard body. This translates to higher route capacity, serving more locations per route—especially on single-stream routes. An additional benefit, Steinke says, is lower operating costs.

St. Nicolas, Quebec, Canada-based Labrie Enviroquip Group’s Wittke line claims the smoothest arm lift in the business, which Luc Bourassa, rear and front loaders product manager at Labrie, says enables buyers to save money on operating costs. Because a complete cycle takes only 12 to 14 seconds, the truck gains about 20 minutes more on-the-street productivity each day, he adds.

Bourassa says Labrie’s DuraScope cylinders are designed to decrease maintenance costs by 4 percent. While some of the numbers might seem small—20 minutes per day or 4 percentage points—it all adds up to lower operating expenses.

Selecting the right truck for a company begins with a needs assessment, according to suppliers.

“Be sure to really understand what you want to do with the truck. Know how much weight, the terrain, how long you want to keep it, stops per day and so on,” Dorwart says. “It is really important to get the best in productivity and uptime when spec’ing.”

Steinke says productivity is a key metric for any collection truck buyer as are overall operating costs.

That brings up the major issue of post-purchase support for any unit.

Service and Support
After-market service and support is critical for any hauler. As the miles and hours ramp up on a machine, the true operating costs come through.

“Don’t forget about warranty, service and the need to have a solid support network for your truck,” Dorwart says. “The last thing you want to be worried about is what happens if you have a problem. You want to know that someone has your back,” he adds.

“Pay attention to warranty programs and the manufacturer’s reputation for honoring that warranty,” Beaver suggests, adding that Heil’s nationwide network of dealers and in-depth series of technical training programs can ensure that the hauler will receive all the support required to maximize the use of that asset throughout its usable life.

“In this day and age, it is important to recognize the financial stability of the RCV (refuse collection vehicle) manufacturer,” Beaver continues. “Many have been significantly weakened by the latest economic downturn and have cut back on essential support services.”

What's New
Manufacturers claim a number of features designed to improve collection efficiency and vehicle life.

Labrie’s Wittke StarLight has a 10,000-pound lifting capacity and a 14-second lifting cycle. With Hardox 450 steel bodies, a recycler is getting a product that is five times as abrasion resistant as typical mild steel, the company says.

Bourassa says the tailgates on Labrie’s Wittke front loaders close straight down and lock without friction. This is designed to reduce wear and to improve tailgate seal life, he says.

The company’s Digiload also allows recyclers to record payload weight at each customer pickup site with 98 percent accuracy, according to Labrie.

In addition to Labrie’s Duroscope cylinders, which are designed to decrease maintenance costs by 4 percent, high-flow hydraulics contribute to fast and smooth lift capacity.

Steinke says Curotto-Can’s Slammin’ Eagle AFL was introduced in 2009 and requires just four to five seconds from wheel-stop to wheel-go. It is designed to deliver good maneuverability, making it 25 percent faster in areas like cul de sacs, Steinke says.

The Slammin’ Eagle also features a hopper that is about four times larger than some competing units, making it capable of taking the large bulk loads and bulk material that commercial accounts often set out. While it loads bulk material like a rear loader, it also can be used as a commercial front loader. Curotto-Can AFLs also can be used on routes for residential garbage, single-stream recycling, green waste, food waste as well as “take-all” routes where the operator needs to pick up bulk items, such as furniture and appliances, Steinke says.

Heil’s newest commercial collection truck is known as the Half/Pack Freedom. It is a front-end-loader (FEL) that weighs about 4,000 pounds less than a typical traditional heavy-duty FEL, according to the company.

“By utilizing sophisticated computer modeling as well as extensive testing both in the lab and in the field, we were able to achieve this weight reduction while retaining the full durability and longevity of the body,” says Heil’s Nate Davis, product manager for the company’s FEL product line. “Coupled with our patent-pending HOPS (Heil Overload Protection System) to ensure the body is never over-packed, the Freedom provides the largest legal payload in the industry,” he says.

According to Heil, its engineers estimate that the Freedom can save $7,000 per year in operating costs because of reduced fuel consumption and tire and brake wear in addition to higher productivity.

“It’s all about being productive and comfortable,” Mack’s Dorwart says.

The company’s TerraPro Low Entry model offers a variety of driving positions, including right hand stand up, which work well for curbside recycling.

“TerraPro Low Entry, as the name implies, has low step height, helping to make those trips in and out of the cab less tiring to the operator,” Dorwart says.

A drop-frame version of the TerraPro Low Entry allows a recycling body to be mounted closer to ground level to further improve working ergonomics.

The TerraPro Cabover model has a 9-liter, 320-horsepower Cummins Westport ISL G engine that can use either CNG or liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The truck can be equipped with air disc brakes designed to optimize the balance between the friction material and the rotor material, providing improved stopping distance and handling. According to Mack, air disc brakes are easier to service and the friction material has been designed to last twice as long as the material in S-cam drum brakes.

The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland and can be contacted at