Extreme Makeover

Features - Material Handling Equipment Focus

Today’s waste handlers are combining technology advancements, fuel efficiency, comfort and strength for improved performance.

November 5, 2013

Waste handlers put to work in waste, scrap and recycling applications take a beating and, as such, manufacturers have responded with design advancements aimed at improving efficiency, simplifying operation, providing the brute strength needed and keeping the operator safe and comfortable.

When examining today’s waste handlers, operators may want to consider a few key factors and advancements that might not have been available the last time they bought a new machine.

Greater Control

Operators now have more control over the power (and fuel) the machine uses to get the job done thanks to advances in electronics. Operators can select a mode that matches the work of the engine and the related components to the task at hand. In doing so, the machine delivers only as much power as needed to conserve fuel. An economy power mode, for example, is used when the waste handler is performing short cycle material handling work. Maximum power mode is suitable for longer cycles and for tasks where acceleration is a priority. The end result is the proper balance between maximum productivity and fuel efficiency.

Modern waste handlers also are built with a variety of electronic modules to control functions throughout the machine. Computer area network (or CAN) bus technology connects the modules and facilitates communication so that they work together efficiently. With a CAN bus, for example, the engine and the transmission are in sync at all times versus working as independent systems. As such, the transmission, related drivetrain components and engine work together to match the demands of a given mode or application.

Electronics also are responsible for many other improved functions and cost savings associated with waste handlers. Operators can adjust idle speed to match conditions. Also common are systems that automatically protect the machine when they recognize critical problems with hydraulics, the engine or transmission.


Equipment manufacturers in this class of machine have two real options for meeting Tier 4 standards: selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and cooled exhaust gas recirculation (CEGR).

SCR is the optimal Tier 4 choice for this application and this style of machine because it is an after-treatment system that lets the engine do what it’s designed to do: generate power at varied engine loads common to waste and recycling operations.

Steer Specs

Skid steers serve as a compact and powerful tool in waste, demolition, recycling and scrap metal operations. Here are a few considerations when specifying a skid steer for work in these environments:

  • Solid tires win the day. Much as with larger waste handlers, solid tires provide added reliability compared with pneumatic tires, helping avoid puncture (downtime) and providing excellent stability.
  • Attachment versatility is important. Forks, buckets and scrap grapples are the most commonly used in these applications and are must-haves. Four-in-one buckets, hammers, skeleton buckets and construction grapples will further enhance the versatility of your skid steer.
  • Guarding and protection are critical to protect the machine and the operator. Common guarding packages include light guarding, level 2 FOPS (falling object protective structures), rear door guard insert, upgraded hood screen, auxiliary hydraulic guard and tilt cylinder guards. Consider polycarbonate door options for added protection. Machines with tip-up cabs also will simplify the removal of built-up debris.
  • Operator environment and safety are paramount. Unlike larger material handling excavators and waste handlers, skid steers put the operator closer to the action on the ground. This is good for operation but highlights the importance of keeping the operator safe. Look for fully sealed and pressurized cabs to significantly reduce the amount of noise, dust and exhaust exposure for a better work environment
  • Shoulder harnesses, in addition to lap bars, will help keep the operator secure.

CEGR uses diesel particulate filters that must regenerate to maintain proper function. Regeneration occurs in phases and often involves high exhaust temperatures and downtime. (During parked regeneration, machines must be parked away from combustible materials, and the vehicle cannot be operated.)

SCR also does not affect the engine’s combustion process, unlike CEGR, which recirculates exhaust gas back into the engine. Fresh air used to develop power is replaced with an inert, unusable gas that robs the engine of power. CEGR-equipped engines inherently use more fuel and have to offset this inefficiency with additional engine components.

Efficient Hydraulics

Load-sensing hydraulic systems, along with precise bucket and loader functions, produce less heat, require less fuel and provide speed and control that is a perfect match in waste handling operations. The system also allows the operator to add circuits if needed, providing excellent versatility.

A key advantage is fuel efficiency because only the power needed—and no more—is used to drive a variable-piston pump to match the load. More efficient use of horsepower also results in less heat being generated and maximized productivity.

Strength Through the Drivetrain

Scrap and waste handling operations place different loads on the machines than standard digging and loading operations. Waste handlers spend a greater amount of time pushing material, and that places an additional load on the rear axle. A properly configured waste handler will feature axles designed for this type of operation. Locking front differentials also are important. These can be used in auto or manual mode and provide maximum traction. Other things to consider:

  • Solid, nonpneumatic tires provide stability and eliminate punctures.
  • Heavy-duty brake linings are used, providing excellent service life.
  • Outboard-mounted brakes and planetary gears are easier to service, resulting in reduced downtime.

Taking Care of the Operator

Features designed to keep operators safe, comfortable and productive continue to evolve. Some recent innovations include:

  • Quieter cabs – Cabs have been refined for a quieter environment than in older models. The decibel level in the cab of some waste handlers is as low as 70.
  • Better air filtration – Given the varying air quality in waste applications, some machines use a dual-air-filtration system for cleaner air in the cab.
  • Improved visibility – Some models offer unobstructed views to both edges of the bucket or attachment. A wide rear window and a low hood profile on the rear of some machines also can give operators a better view to the rear. Wide-angle rear-view cameras reduce blind spots and provide another element of safety for operators.
  • Increased comfort – Whether it’s joystick steering, ergonomically placed controls or heated seats, waste handlers offer increased comfort for operators compared with many older models.


Telematics is the integration of telecommunications and machine operating information so that users can monitor the location, movements, status and health of equipment and vehicles. It communicates critical machine data via a global positioning system (GPS) to a Web-based software program.

Telematics can provide extensive benefits, including the simplification of storing, organizing and reporting key information; monitoring Tier 4-related data, such as DEF fluid levels; scheduling routine maintenance and sharing machine operating and maintenance data with dealer service departments; preventing failures before they occur; tracking the habits of operators to identify areas for improved efficiencies; improved asset allocation; and increased security. Armed with accurate data, decision-makers are able to make more informed equipment decisions and hold operating costs down.

These are just a few of the advancements in waste handling technology currently available in new machines, all of which are designed to simplify and make operation more efficient while also responding to the rigorous demands of the application. For more information and machine options, reach out to a heavy equipment dealer.


The author is product sales training manager for Case Construction Equipment, Racine, Wis. More information is available at www.casece.com. This article originally ran in the September/October issue of Construction & Demolition Recycling, a sister publication to Recycling Today.