Roll, clatter, clunk, move on down the street… That’s as much as most people see of a waste collection truck. And, unfortunately, much of the information we collect about the truck’s daily performance comes from the casual observations of the driver. “How did it go today?” “About the same as usual.” “Any problems with performance?” “Nothing unusual. Same as every other day, I suppose.” We cannot expect the driver to concentrate on the vehicle’s engine or lift performance unless it makes a dramatic difference when he’s already concentrating on doing a good job of collection and customer satisfaction. Today, however, we can expect the truck itself to tell us what has been happening.
Today’s waste trucks can collect an amazing amount of useful information about the route, the customers, and the drivers, not to mention the condition of the truck itself. Is there a part that looks as if it is going to fail soon? The truck itself can tell you that with accuracy and without taking everything apart. Is there a way the driver can know when his truck is full, without traveling across town to go over a scale?
Given the high cost of time and equipment, onboard scales produce a dramatic impact on the efficiency and profitability truck operations, but it’s important that they meet the suspension specifications of the vehicle as well as your specific goals. Vulcan On-Board Scales offers a wide variety of options for front-, rear- and side-loaders, roll-offs, and transfer trucks and trailers to make sure the operation is meeting its goals for weight monitoring. These goals include vehicle efficiency, elimination of overweight fines, maximization of transfer trailer load weights, and the elimination of the need to travel to certified scales. Onboard scales also increase operations safety, vehicle life, while improving efficiency by recording weights, load cycles, dump cycles and route/service times.
Weight is critical in waste collection, from several viewpoints, including legality and efficiency. Poor control of weight for a waste truck can lead to unnecessary expenses. If you maximize those payloads, without overloading, you can eliminate fines and liability; you will also eliminate excess truck wear. From an opposite aspect you will save time and money if your trucks do not go to their disposal sites underloaded. LoadMan is a leader in onboard truck scales and offers real-time weigh-in-motion technology that weighs on the way up or down-no waiting.
“Think of LoadMan as an electronic supervisor,” says a company brochure, describing the product as a kind of route assistant that can save operational expenses and even lives. Operating overloaded vehicles is dangerous and can cause impaired handling, vehicle instability, and braking distance that may be longer than usual. LoadMan’s high-accuracy weighing minimizes risks that can cause failures of tires, brakes, and suspension systems. Such failures can be most costly; not only in the need to repair or replace parts but in the possibility that failed components on a truck can cause accidents, damage to others’ property, injury, and even death.
When you add LoadMan Load Management software to your high-accuracy onboard scales, you get information that can help give you an accurate picture of your operations. Collect data from each truck as drivers work their route, and download that information by customer account to your accounting software. GPS tracking and Google mapping track each route and each truck (whether the number you have is 3, 30, or 300) for the entire route. LoadMan will automatically identify accounts as the driver and truck approach the next load stop, allowing the driver to focus on the driving and pickup. In the system, powerful data filtering lets you build reports around the exact information you want, when you want it.
And LoadMan has introduced its new SpotLight software, which provides the industry’s most powerful-but simple-data analytic and reporting tools. If there are any issues with trucks, load capacities at transfer stations, or other defined alarms, SpotLight will alert office supervisors with a dashboard control display. Even diversion rates can be tracked at any level: bin, customer, route, or city.
What types of waste trucks do you have? LoadMan has a family of onboard scales for waste management and recycling. Among these are the Front Loader scales, which are a straightforward bolt-on system that installs in just a few hours. Among the trucks they fit accurately are those built by Wayne Engineering, Scranton Manufacturing, Labrie, McNeilus (Atlantic and Pacific), and Heil. For rear loaders the LoadMan system will eliminate overloading or underloading. The manufacturer recommends annual calibration, but most systems keep their accuracy much longer than that. You can also get on-board scales for hook lifts and rolloffs, and for trucks used to transport waste to transfer stations. An important feature of these weigh-in-motion systems is that they can do their precise work on the fly; you don’t have to stop and wait for their operation.
FleetMind recently developed FleetLink Scales, a patented new approach to using scales in commercial waste applications. FleetLink Scales is an onboard disposal weight management system that installs easily onto truck lifts and integrates seamlessly with back office systems. “Until now, commercial waste weight management systems have typically required major truck modifications and been notoriously prone to damage,” observes Martin Demers, chief executive officer of FleetMind. “Our new FleetLink Scales system is designed to eliminate the key issues associated with current in-market solutions: expensive truck modifications, lack of back-office data correlation, and onerous requirements for ongoing maintenance and recalibration. We believe this approach is a great leap forward for the use of scales in commercial disposal applications.”
The company says the FleetLink Scales system provides the following key advantages over current in-market solutions:
- Costs less-It is less complex, more compact, and more accurate.
- Installs easily-These scales install within a few hours and do not require truck modifications.
- Seamless back-office integration-Fleetlink systems integrate easily with back office systems to correlate and update customer information automatically without any manual intervention.
- Minimal maintenance-This scale system requires virtually no maintenance, and calibration is scheduled annually but rarely required. As it doesn’t rely on load cells, the FleetLink Scales system is more reliable and presents a low risk for damage.
- Real-time data-It provides real-time access to data for immediate resolution of customer issues.
- Accurate billing-It identifies extra services and weights for accurate billing.
The AMCS Group is a world leader in providing solutions for the challenges in waste management and environmental industries. AMCS systems are used to manage some four million municipal, commercial, and industrial waste units for waste collection, recycling, and facility operations. This year, the company has introduced the new FEL (front-end loader) scale system to the North American market. This technology requires no modification or redesign of the fork arm of the vehicle. Whether it is integrated with customers’ existing IT systems or coupled with the AMCS group’s ELEMOS software, the new FEL scale allows haulers to weigh accurately the trash they collect and to gather the data they need to conduct a profit and loss analysis of all customers. “We are really excited to be launching the technology at this year’s WasteExpo,” asserts Jimmy Martin, chief executive officer of the AMCS Group. “With waste managers looking for more and more data to improve profitability, our aim is to provide them with accurate and reliable information on which they can base important business decisions.”
Keeping Safety as the Top Priority
Safety for everybody and everything concerned with solid waste management is a top priority in every community. “Everybody and everything” includes them all, truck drivers, customers, other vehicles, structures public and private, passersby, absolutely everyone and everything in the path of the trucks. A waste truck is a heavy, moving object that can damage almost anything if it is carelessly operated. A recent study from The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) found that a video-based driver safety program has the potential to make a positive, dramatic difference in reducing injuries and saving lives. The study concluded that heavy trucks and buses (a group that includes thousands of waste trucks) that use a system called DriveCam, powered by the Lytx program, could significantly reduce fatalities, collisions, and injuries.
“If driver behavior is the primary reason for traffic crashes, then approaches that pinpoint and focus on reducing risky driving behavior are likely to be the most effective in reducing crashes,” comments Jeffrey Hickman, co-author of the study with Susan Soccolich. “Motor vehicle crashes are often predictable and preventable. Yet, many drivers choose to behave in ways that put themselves and others at risk for a vehicle crash and/or serious injuries. The most efficacious onboard safety monitoring systems use in-vehicle video technology to gather driving behaviors that can be addressed and corrected, thereby reducing future crash risk.”
“The results of this study underscore our mission,” explains Brandon Nixon, Lytx chairman and chief executive officer, one of whose popular products is DriveCam. “We harness the power of video, predictive analytics, and cloud technologies to prevent collisions, save lives, and transform businesses. Someone dies in a vehicle collision in the US every 15 minutes. Each fatality represents someone’s loved one. The sad truth is that 90% of these tragedies are due to human error and are avoidable. We are dedicated to using our technology to help professional drivers adopt safer driving habits and measurably reduce the risk that is happening on our roads every day.” Lytx RAIR Services help DOT-regulated fleets comply with safety regulations, complementing the DriveCam program. These solutions protect more than 950 commercial and government fleet clients worldwide, clients who drive billions of miles annually and realize significant return on investment by lowering their operating and insurance costs.
Vehicles of all shapes and sizes have drivers, so it makes sense to ensure that your drivers are well trained and alert, and aware of any (often unwitting) errors they make in their daily work. This does not mean that all waste truck drivers are bad and dangerous, but it does mean that all drivers (including you and me) are subject to errors. With a waste collection truck, an error can cause serious, expensive damage to property and people. Lucy on her tricycle can make more mistakes, but they don’t have the same impact as the waste truck. A program like DriveCam can help drivers to be more reliable by showing real incidents; this reality can also protect drivers from false claims about alleged accidents. The rebuttal of a fraudulent claim can save thousands. One user of DriveCam rejected an individual’s claim that the driver had damaged her vehicle. The video from DriveCam proved that was not true and the truck driver’s boss reckoned it saved about $40,000. The driver is now a fan of DriveCam.
The Importance of Drivers
As with all technologies these days, you are going to come across all kinds of initials. Experts love initials, and not just those after their names. Think of all the initials used in sports and tossed around in bars and lunchrooms (TD, ERA, PK, RBI, etc., etc.). For smart trucks, the EDR (event data recorder) has been around for several years; it’s like the legendary black box in planes. In today’s trucks EDRs are often triggered electronically when they sense unusual changes in the engine or speed of the wheels. After an accident or crash, these devices can tell us what was happening before, during, or after the crash. Different EDRs give differing amounts of information and cover differing periods of time. As a rule, they do not give video evidence; neither do they address driver conduct. But EDRs can give you details of engine behavior, wheel speed, history of engine use, and cruise-control use. They can be useful but they don’t, so far, address problems in the way that a program like DriveCam can address them. So far? By the time you see what I am writing, there will have been some improvements and enhancements. Our key question is: How will they help us?
Then we have AERs (accident event recorders). Again, there are variations in what is offered, so some homework is required before purchase. AERs generally have an inward-facing camera and an outward-facing camera (which covers the driver’s field of vision). The inward-facing camera can record driver behavior just before an accident; it can detect and record, for example, if the driver was sending and receiving text messages or being distracted by anything else in his cab environment.
All these devices seem to improve on a monthly basis. The technologies that make them possible are proven and established; more recent devices can do more than the older ones (just like computers and phones). The reality is that they are available, onboard tools that can tell almost everything about a truck’s behavior. They are getting better and better about recording the driver’s behavior, including some of those habits that have caused problems, habits like eating while driving, texting messages, and cell phone use.
One objection to the increasing number of devices in the cab is that they could start to distract the drivers rather than help them. “With the introduction of the new FMCSA driver distraction laws that prohibit texting while driving, mobile operations managers are quickly finding ways to enforce compliance and avoid fines under the new CSA 2010,” advises Mark Wallin, vice president of product management at Telogis. “The issue is that the growing requirement for mobile communication, plus the near ubiquity of mobile devices-from tablets to smartphones-in vehicles is creating a conflict of interest for workers who need to stay informed and get the job done without being distracted by the very devices they use for work.”
How can operations managers balance the needs of mobile workers, and that would include waste truck drivers, yet stay compliant with the new FMCSA requirement? Vehicle safety doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a result of company-wide culture and management mandates that put an emphasis on whether their drivers behave in safe ways, and not on considerations like company profits. The company or public department values the well being of staff and accommodates the extra time required to ensure work tasks are carried out in accordance with strict safety guidelines. This top-down approach to safety involves the implementation of policies and systems to ensure that every aspect of fleet operations covers the necessary safety requirements: Pre-trip inspections, hours of service (HOS), maintenance, and driver communication need to be covered to reduce risks.
“Many fleets around the world are implementing location-intelligent solutions to help maintain a safer environment for their drivers,” says Wallin. “Safety has always been a key part of the Telogis platform solution that aims to monitor and help to change driver behavior, using onboard software to monitor HOS, vehicle maintenance, unsafe driving such as hard braking or acceleration, seat belt use, or speeding. In order to address the inherent safety concerns around distracted driving and comply with new legislation, Telogis has added a Distracted Driving Solution to help your vehicle drivers resist the temptation to use their mobile devices while a vehicle is in motion.”
The technology is as an extension of Telogis’s comprehensive, cloud-based location intelligence software platform, which provides dynamic routing, real-time work order management, commercial navigation, telematics, and mobile integration services for companies and public departments with mobile work forces. So the question looms up: If I can’t text, e-mail, or call, how do I keep in touch? There are needs that require mobile workers to have ready access to two-way communications. Work orders, route changes, ad hoc jobs or emergency situations demand that drivers be kept informed and provide necessary feedback to other team members or their supervisors.
Telogis features include the following:
- Text-to-speech navigation-With spoken turn-by-turn navigation, your drivers can be guided with safe, accurate, and legally compliant directions to their exact destination-without taking their eyes off the road.
- PND messaging-Communicate directly with a driver’s in-cab device with electronic canned messages and custom forms for real-time driver polling.
- Larger screen size-Run your Telogis solution on an Android or iOS-powered tablet equipped with a larger screen size. This helps your drivers to keep their eyes on the road when receiving new instructions, messages, or directions.
Watching and Recording Collection With Bar Codes?
Getting away from the supermarket is quicker these days, thanks to those bar codes on products. We take them for granted now, on more than just the cereal packet. Our public library uses them. Clothing items carry them. Bar codes are an accurate way of describing a product, book, CD, jacket, or cut of beef. The identification tags referred to as RFID (must have those initials everywhere!) are an advance on the bar codes you see in the store. The RF stands for radio frequency.
RFID is playing an increasingly valuable role in trash collection. Containers are tagged with an RFID identification. Each time a container or cart is brought up and tipped into the truck, a reader in the truck sees and records the identification number and notes the details of the customer for the collection. This has proved especially helpful in some communities where customers have said that trash was not picked up; the RFID can show when the customer was wrong. You can track the containers they empty, and the time and place of the collection. It is equally helpful for billing. Some communities have found that their trucks were picking up garbage or recyclables (sometimes hundreds of them) and the customers were not being billed for the service.
A peripheral benefit with the use of RFIDs could be that less garbage is collected and more room left at the disposal site. In many communities customers pay a flat fee for garbage collection or pay for it through local taxes, regardless of the amount they put in their containers. There is a strong movement today for municipalities to charge customers according to the quantity of trash generated. The cost could depend on the weight of the trash or on the size of container that the city provides, and people like to save money by reducing their garbage weights or by not putting their containers out so often. In northern communities, the amount of garbage during the winter months is often negligible; it increases as spring and summer bring their contributions from outdoor activities.
“We are now almost exclusively HID,” comments Jimmy Martin, chief executive officer of AMCS. “Our three criteria were: durability, quality, and responsiveness. HID came to the top of this list in all of them.” The HID mentioned is HID Global, whose RFID technology has earned praise worldwide. You can embed the tag into the container, with a reader on the truck that takes the weight on the way up and down, as well as the GPS coordinates of the tag. That information is relayed to the back office to enable decisions on route efficiency. A number of municipal customers use the AMCS/HID technologies for recording such exceptions on the routes as “missed container,” “access blocked,” and “container contaminated.” Bin and containers manufacturers can choose from a broad range of LF, HF, and UHF passive, contactless transponders that give various levels of resistance to water, chemicals, shock, and temperature variation. For field-deployed assets, bin tag and plug tag transponders install easily into standard nests, including metal trash containers and DIN 30745 bins.
“Technology is changing the way we manage our waste and recyclables,” explains Martin Demers, chief executive officer of FleetMind. “It’s making waste more personal, accountable, and efficient. The ability to track and weigh garbage will drive more responsible waste and recycling behaviors and will help waste managers run more efficient departments and companies. In particular, radio frequency identification chips are becoming an integral part of the drive to improve service verification solutions, while providing measurable benefits across multiple functions ranging from improved customer service to better asset tracking and more accurate billing.”
Demers tells us that RFID chips, or “tags” as they are commonly called, are proliferating in refuse and recycling carts for to individual households or commercial establishments. Their use is proliferating primarily because of the growing need to identify uniquely and positively each customer that is receiving waste disposal services. In some cases customers may be part of a recycling rewards program. In other cases, customers may be billed on a “pay for use” basis, or a contract may require that service be verified on a cart-by-cart basis. To achieve the specific association between the service being performed and the customer, each cart-uniquely identified by its RFID tag-is associated with a specific account.
“Waste and recycling firms, as well as municipalities, place the highest value on ensuring accurate service delivery and a problem-free customer experience,” says Demers. “To help them achieve this, FleetMind provides a comprehensive cart delivery and management system. Using RFID tags, each garbage can or cart can be associated with a specific customer address. Drivers can quickly verify cart details by scanning these with handheld devices. Inventory management capabilities can update backend databases in real-time on service or replacement and repair requirements. Our enhanced cart delivery and management system delivers better service through real-time access to information and immediate response capabilities. As a result, our Waste and Recycling customers are reporting a sharp increase in truck productivity and a significant reduction in the time it takes to deal with customer service inquiries and complaints.”
The FleetMind RFID cart management system enables the following processes:
- Carts are associated with each customer by means of RFID tags and GPS geo-coding positioning.
- The information thus captured is fed back to the back office/dispatch system.
- The back office dispatches a designated customer route to a truck.
- The truck implements the route and the lifts are confirmed automatically when the FleetLink onboard system reads and recognizes the garbage cans collected from their RFID tags, thereby automating the service verification process.
- For exceptions, the driver can send messages to the back office to advise sales of new customers not indicated on the route, or maintenance of any carts needing repair.
- After each stop, the confirmation data is sent immediately to the back office, allowing customer service representatives to respond to customer inquiries or complaints with real-time data.
- Repairs and replacement data can be dispatched to the cart delivery handheld for maintenance to repair and replace carts as needed with a “maintenance route.”
The Everyday Side to Technology
What puts people off new technologies, and even not-so-new ones, is that sellers too often try to demonstrate the brilliance of the inventors rather than the practical use of the devices. FleetMind has some of the most popular technologies that can be used by truck owners and has available a return-on-investment, field-tested calculator that can project the impact on your bottom line of FleetMind solutions. Ask them about it! The calculator addresses several everyday issues that are certainly familiar to you: vehicle maintenance, driver and administrative labor, fuel consumption, and good service delivery.
With built-in calculators for low-to-high variables, FleetMind can estimate the reduction in minutes per day for administrative paperwork, office support, route time, and route efficiency, based on your fleet’s size, routes, customers, and other operational data. Your savings in this area could go from $2500 to $5000 in improvements (per year) for every truck. The program can monitor and manage driving and patterns to ensure safer driving and reduce idling times. The solution could save in the thousands of dollars per year. You can save on fuel consumption, too. By monitoring and managing idling percentages and speeding infractions, along with reducing the amount of unnecessary travel, FleetMind’s ROI calculator can chart your trucks’ projected savings for as much as $1,500 a year for each one of them. It’s difficult to quantify the benefits of having satisfied customers, or the benefits of having 360° visibility in truck and drive activity, but the calculator can show the revenue impact of reducing missed pickups and increasing service efficiency. The company’s technological solutions include driver display, driver direction, fleet mapping, detailed reporting, automatic service verification, cart management, safety features, wireless communications, and more.