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Features - Operations Focus

Municipal waste and recycling fleets can benefit from in-cab smart displays.

May 6, 2013
Martin Demers

Municipal solid waste services are an essential part of life in our communities. They affect our health and our environment and help keep our cities clean and attractive.

As tax payers, both residents and businesses want safe and reliable waste collection and recycling services. They also want to know that these municipal services are comparable in cost and efficiency to privately contracted services.

Municipal waste managers, therefore, face pressures to deliver services that are efficient, responsive, environmentally friendly and accountable to the public. To do so, they need complete oversight into their waste collection and recycling fleet operations and are increasingly looking to new technologies to give them an edge.

Potential Benefits

A smart display is typically a wireless touchscreen device with built-in Wi-Fi and the ability to interact directly with the screen. For waste fleets, smart displays are in-cab-mounted units designed to provide unprecedented real-time information to drivers and managers about a truck’s load weight, route status, service completion, vehicular telemetry, driver activities and much more.

These smart displays manage a wide range of inputs from a vehicle’s onboard systems, including cameras, scales, RFID (radio frequency identification) readers, tire pressure and fuel monitoring, as well as other devices. They are designed to ensure easy and real-time communications and information transfer between drivers, vehicles and the back-office.

Eight reasons why smart displays are a “must have” for municipalities follow.

1. Municipalities will have complete visibility and oversight. Municipal waste and recycling managers need to have a complete view of all fleet, equipment and driver activity. Smart displays with fleet management software are designed to deliver complete visibility into what’s going on. They provide a single point of interface between the driver, truck, back-office and all communications. They further integrate multiple video and audio feeds in real time and ensure flexible and easy interfaces with the vehicle’s control system. It’s like having a supervisor in every truck.

2. Municipalities will improve customer service. Municipalities place the highest value on ensuring accurate service delivery and a problem-free customer experience. Smart displays are designed to facilitate faster and more accurate responses to customer service issues. These displays typically have the ability to track and photograph any route or pickup issues, provide photographic evidence of services if required and send video recordings or live camera feeds to the back-office—all in real time. They are designed to further ensure instant remote connectivity between the back-office and each vehicle to facilitate prompt follow up with customer service requests.

3. Municipalities can better measure recycling participation.
Recycling program measurement is critical to many municipal waste organizations. Smart display onboard computing solutions are designed to track every pickup and container to measure participation rates and to accurately tally any credits.

4. Municipalities will operate more efficiently. Municipalities are all about accountability, fiscal responsibility and operational efficiencies. Smart displays with fleet management software are designed to feed real-time reporting solutions to evaluate overall operational efficiency for driver activity, driver performance, driver scoring, fuel consumption and fleet performance. Vehicle reports will further monitor vehicle usage for accidents, alarms, fuel tax and vehicle usage. Municipal managers can view all vehicles on a map to monitor bread crumb trails, alerts, excessive idling, hard braking and more.

5. Municipalities can better track carts and assets.
A smart-display-powered cart-management system provides municipalities with an advanced solution for automated garbage collection and the management of individual carts and customers. Using RFID tags, each garbage can or cart can be associated with a specific customer address. Drivers can quickly verify cart specifics by scanning these with an onboard RFID reader. With added GPS capabilities, fleet operations personnel can have real-time visibility into truck location and activity, verify service accuracy and quickly identify carts that have been moved or stolen or that require servicing and repair. Individual customer information—from damaged carts to insufficient cart capacity–easily can be captured into a centralized database. This further ensures immediate and accurate information for any billing processes.

6. Municipalities will improve their safety record. Smart displays can provide key capabilities to make it easier for municipalities to implement and monitor fleet safety initiatives. A smart-display-powered fleet management solution can provide managers with a complete view into driver activity and behavior. By understanding individual driving habits, managers can better coach drivers on safer techniques and reward defensive driving behavior. Managers can set alarm criteria to alert both drivers and managers when safe driving thresholds have been exceeded. In the truck cab, smart displays also can improve safety by reducing driver distractions and optimizing automation. Additionally, smart displays usually integrate with rear-mounted cameras in an effort to enhance safety with a clear view of potential obstacles.

7. Municipalities will have “greener” fleets. Green fleets are focused on reducing fuel consumption, mileage and exhaust emissions and on driving more efficiently—a must for every municipality. Driver behavior is fundamental to fleet sustainability. Even the most fuel-efficient vehicles will perform poorly with an inefficient driver behind the wheel. Municipal managers need the tools to monitor driver behavior to influence and educate drivers on more emissions-friendly driving approaches. Smart displays with driver direction capabilities let managers optimize routing for each truck to reduce time spent on the road and the number of engine hours per day. They further can help reduce the amount of fuel burned by the engine as it is being used with the use of alarms to monitor and reduce idling, identify aggressive driving patterns and vehicle maintenance problems and collect the ECM codes so that engines can be repaired before problems escalate.

8. Municipalities will improve the driver experience.
It stands to reason that reducing driver distractions is essential for both waste fleet safety and for productivity. Smart displays are designed to make bilateral communications between drivers and dispatch (the back-office) easy and intuitive. These smart displays typically provide a single point of interface for the driver, truck, back-office and all communications—no more cell phones or other mobile devices. Advanced smart displays will usually feature touch screens that can be operated with gloves. Many are designed to be hands free. They will typically ensure visibility even in harsh sunlight or snow glare conditions. They are usually installed ergonomically in the cab to provide quick visual references for route or customer information. Benefits include less paper work, fewer manual processes and more focused drivers.

Management Efficiencies
The range of information that smart displays capture is typically fed into a back-office dashboard. The benefits to municipal managers are numerous and can be compelling:

  • Managers will have a vastly improved ability to make decisions. A visual presentation of performance measures lets them identify trends in driver behavior, track vehicles and service performance and measure efficiencies.
  • Managers can better align their organizations. By working from a universal set of metrics and a single view into them, all internal functions can track organizational goals and performance.
  • Managers can increase operational efficiencies. They can save time over running multiple reports, gain total visibility into all information, better manage routes and drivers and can respond faster to customer service issues.
  • Managers can deal with problems more quickly. By being able to detect and identify problem areas, managers can better manage exceptions, deal with driver or vehicle issues and ensure route efficiencies.

Closing the Gap
Smart displays and the software that runs on them can bridge the gap between municipal waste managers, their trucks and their drivers. They can provide the insight and oversight required to run more efficient and accountable waste and recycling operations.

Technology is evolving the way we operate our fleets. For municipalities, smart displays can provide a compelling return on investment.


Martin Demers is CEO of FleetMind, FleetMind’s technology is derived from more than 10 years and millions of dollars invested in developing fleet solutions specifically designed for waste and recycling environments. FleetMind solutions have been installed in thousands of vehicles across North America.