Garbage truck body manufacturers
As the push to recycle and divert organics, and particularly food waste, continues to grow, so do the challenges. And nowhere is that more apparent than in the back of a garbage truck.
Haulers and truck body manufacturers increasingly are pressed these days to adapt the basic waste truck to the range of unique concerns that food waste collection and organics in general present.
The problem starts with the definition. “It’s a big challenge in the industry right now, where people are using terms like food waste and compost interchangeably at times, and organics, and they mean one thing in one area of the country and something different in another, ” says Eric Myers, director of organics at Houston-based Waste Management Inc.
If it’s just food waste being picked up, “That’s a pretty soupy mix, ” says Skip Berg, national sales manager for Levis, Quebec-based truck body maker Labrie Enviroquip. “And traditional units don’t handle that well. Whenever you try to run a packer panel or push-out blade or anything through that kind of payload, it goes everywhere. Squishes out, comes around, gets in the cylinders, it’s hard to seal these things.” Myers says sometimes extra plates need to be added to control the slop from getting out of the truck.
With residential organics, food waste and yard waste often are combined, although with that mix often less than 10 percent by weight is food waste, Myers says. With commercial facilities, the big challenge is water and weight. The weight of the material could be 1, 000 pounds a yard or more–much heavier than municipal solid waste (MSW). If there are a lot of commercial stops, the truck’s weight can become a road concern.
“Being aware of the weight restrictions and the proper sizing of the chassis is all important if you get into a steady diet of it, ” says Phil Allen, vice president of sales for Scranton, Iowa-based Scranton Manufacturing Co. Inc., maker of New Way Trucks.
Food waste is acidic, and that can lead to changes in the containers from corrosion, says Marty Tufte, director of fleet for Waste Management. And the truck equipment has to be able to pick up all types of containers that can be very heavy.
“Roll carts, for instance, your normal conventional semi-automated tipper in the back of a rear loader might not do it, ” he says. Waste Management has some specially designed lifting mechanisms for front loaders to address those issues.
Some cities such as Boston and Washington, D. C., have height restrictions on vehicles, so haulers can only get into a lot of spaces with a rear loader. “We have to make sure we have the rear loaders set up to be able to handle that, with the higher splash plates and things like that, ” Myers says.
Another factor is when the food begins to naturally break down in the container, and that generates more liquid.
The industry tries to come up with a variety of tricks to adapt for food waste, Allen says. They can include a leachate tank to collect the liquids, and trying to modify the seals to make them more liquid tight. “But it doesn’t address the problem; it’s just a band-aid, ” he says. “Trying to make an existing truck into an organics truck isn’t a good fit.”
Not Your Father’s Garbage Truck
New Way built a truck it hopes is the best of both worlds: A truck body designed for organics collection, but it also can pick traditional trash. It uses an auger instead of a packing blade, so food waste can’t get behind it, plus the food waste gets some pre-processing, Allen says.
Labrie builds a couple of units suited for organics. One takes the packing cylinders outside the containment area, and the mechanism works on a pendulum motion.
Waste Management operates special organics front loaders, which by design take care of some of the sealing issues. The company uses them specifically for organics collection, although they could be used for MSW, Tufte says.
“It gets a little difficult some times. It’s fairly easy to make a transition from organics to a residential stream, but if you have a specific organics truck sometimes it gets hard to go to full-on commercial. Because that (traditional) waste can be much bulkier, heavier, much more construction, manufacturing and all of those things in there where the packing devices are not going to be conducive to that kind of waste. Versus organics where you really don’t need a lot of packing pressure to break down the waste to get a legal payload.”
But the modifications aren’t excessively difficult to engineer, Tufte says, and the truck manufacturers have been good partners to work with on the technology changes.
But it does make the truck more expensive, both to purchase and to maintain. And generally the truck is limited in its collection use if it’s specialized, so that reduced scale increases costs.
“It’s certainly more expensive to collect food waste than it is to collect MSW, ” Myers says. “It’s for a whole variety of reasons. One is routing efficiency. Not every customer is a food waste customer.
“The weight is another issue. Overall participation rates. We have communities where there’s really high participation rates, and other places where it’s not as high. So obviously that affects efficiencies. It can be pretty significant, the increase in transportation costs.”