Media Coverage

MSW Management - Where Technology and Training Add Up

12/23/2011 - “Would you rather be good, or would you rather be lucky?”

The question is posed by Steve McCharen, president and chief executive officer of SafeComm Services, a driver observation program. His company focuses on assisting clients whose employees are driving trucks in what he calls one of the most “unsafe work environments in the world.”

Such technologies are becoming more in demand as municipal solid waste programs seek to increase safety measures through technology and training while increasing operational efficiencies.

That’s where companies like SafeComm Services come in.

Using video and radar equipment from a nondescript vehicle, SafeComm Services monitors driver performance to help clients move toward a “zero accident” goal through safety performance programs.

“In the first year of using the driver observation program, there is a 50% drop in incidents, with a continuation downward,” says McCharen.

The videotapes document drivers’ actions through a detailed audio of happenings taking place during the observation and video imaging of a driver’s speed as recorded by the radar unit.

Each driver’s observation includes two documented reports—an Excel document scoring the driver’s performance and a Word document noting the driver’s positive practices—as well as targeted areas for improvement and an overall evaluation. Observation frequencies are specific to client requests.

Serious issues with the potential for a severe incident are e-mailed to a company’s manager within seconds of completing the observation.

“Every day, you’re saving a life, and you do it because you train the driver,” says McCharen. “It’s not just the new drivers who need a lot of work. I’ve heard comments from new clients about the guy who’s been with them 25 years, and when he saw the video he said he’d never do that again. We’re putting a mirror up in front of that driver and letting him see himself.”

In the solid waste industry, the risk of Worker’s Compensation issues is greater than that of vehicle accidents, notes McCharen.

SafeComm approaches its work from the idea of the accident pyramid, he says. The premise of the accident pyramid—first brought up in the 1931 book, Industrial Accident Prevention, a Scientific Approach, by H.W. Heinrich—is a ratio of one major injury to 29 minor injuries to 300 no-injury, near-miss incidents (McCharen calls them “observed habits”).

For example, a rear-end incident could involve following: distance, ankle injury, and improper cab exits.

“It will eventually catch up to you,” says McCharen. “Instead of waiting for that accident to happen, we address the habit on the front end by using the videos as a training tool. There’s no disagreement because there’s no denying what’s going on.”

SafeComm Services encourages clients to use the video not “as a hammer to beat [employees] up,” but rather as a training tool.

“When we do the observation, we don’t simply film it,” McCharen says. “Our guys are trained to use teaching and training methods.”

For example, a video can demonstrate how a lane change almost resulted in an accident, illustrating why a driver needs to check mirrors every three to five seconds.

“We talk about the four-second following distance rule,” says McCharen. “We break it down as to why it takes four seconds instead of just telling them that it does.”

Following distance is the most common violation SafeComm Services notes.

“It’s commonly accepted in the general public to be in a line of 20 vehicles like you’re going around in NASCAR,” McCharen says. “People don’t realize they are dependent upon other persons in line. In the trucking industry, you lose a second and a half of reaction time because that’s how long it takes for that brake light to come on.”

The video is used not to solely point out faults, but also to flag good driving habits, McCharen says.

“We try to separate the herd from the people who are doing a good job, and they should be rewarded,” he says. “For those who need corrective training for a serious infraction they keep repeating, human resources loves the fact there’s a sound basis to do terminations if they have to.”

The mere thought that SafeComm is observing drivers in any given company is enough to promote good driving habits, says McCharen.

“We work with the same group of drivers every month,” he says. “They know we’re coming back, and even if you’ve not been observed under our process, you hear about it, and we’re often ‘seen’ out there when we’re not there.”

Not only does SafeComm Services observe unsafe driving behaviors, but it also notes efficiency-related issues, such as making stops unrelated to work and other improper usage of time.

GreenRoad Technologies also monitors driving performance through a device installed in the vehicle analyzing driver performance in real time through a color-coded system displaying a green, yellow, or red light that alerts a driver executing a high-risk maneuver.

“It helps improve driving performance as it relates to safety as well as fuel efficiency,” says Glenn Pereira, director of product management for GreenRoad Technologies. “There is the additional benefit of reduced costs. It’s changing the driving culture of organizations.”

Driving performance affects three areas, says Pereira:

  • Safety—minimizing the probability of a number of crashes and associated costs, including liability and insurance premiums

  • Fuel efficiency based on driving habits—“The ROI can be justified merely on the fuel efficiency,” says Pereira.

  • Reductions in operating costs

Various driving maneuvers are analyzed by the technology.

“For example, if you’re driving along at a reasonable speed and you swerve into a curve or you brake while you’re exiting a corner, when the technology detects driving risks associated with the maneuvers above a certain threshold, then it provides feedback to the driver,” Pereira says.

High-risk maneuvers set off a flashing yellow light to the driver. Seriously risky maneuvers prompt a flashing red.

The technology is not meant to be punitive, Pereira says.

“The vast majority of drivers don’t intentionally drive aggressively or in a more risky way,” he says, adding that some safe and efficient drivers can become somewhat more aggressive as a result of a conflict earlier in the day, for example.

“The technology reminds them when they are performing a high-risk maneuver so they can self-correct,” he says. “That helps in getting driver buy-in, because if a driver doesn’t actually believe in the system, or they don’t want to drive more carefully, then there is a different challenge that needs to be addressed.”

At the same time, managers and supervisors have access to the data through a web-based application and can see overall safety scores across locations, the fleet, for individual drivers, and for individual vehicles. Management can review single trips or historical performances.

“It’s almost as if they’re riding along with the driver, Pereira says. “Traditionally, companies have either used an approach of following the vehicle or have the driving trainer sit in the vehicle with the driver and evaluate their performance when they’re driving.

“The challenge of that is the driver knows they’re being evaluated by the trainer or supervisor, so they will drive safely and effectively while they’re being evaluated, but for the rest of the time, they’re going to do whatever they feel like doing.”

While GreenRoad has typically been installed aftermarket, there are OEMs offering it as a factory option, Pereira says.

The technology often augments in-house training and incentives, which Pereira says is utilized by most of GreenRoad’s end users.

Inthinc offers a fleet management and driver safety solution based on real-time verbal coaching for drivers and up-to-the-second, web-based dashboards for the fleet manager.

TiwiPro is an in-cab system incorporating Inthinc technology and designed to significantly change driver behavior and prevent crashes. Drivers receive verbal, in-cab alerts as soon as they exhibit a dangerous driving behavior such as speeding, seat belt violations, unsafe braking, turning, or acceleration.

TiwiPro is designed to be a user-friendly, web-based dashboard offering management a full range of exception-based reports of safety-related incidents by driver and by vehicle.

The technology is a hierarchy-based system with multilevel permission/role and offers fleet monitoring through a web-based portal.

The technology’s RFID capability allows data to be assigned to individual vehicle drivers. It also features a mapping interface for trips and event identification.

Reports and trend analyses are based on user permissions/roles, overall score dashboards (fleet, division, and team levels), trending charts pinpointing areas of improvement or special risks, miles per gallon reporting, driver and vehicle performance, idle reporting, red flags, events, violations, warnings, trip analysis, coaching events, and corrective driving behavior tracking.

Reports can be scheduled to be created and sent automatically; reports can be e-mailed, exported, or printed. The archive has 12-month legacy data storage and repository.Driver performance scoring is based on a scale of zero to five on custom algorithms and computations.

Each incident is captured and reported in real time through cellular technology, enabling instant notification of accidents and other serious exceptions requiring immediate response.

The real-time incident notifications are sent instantly via e-mail, text message, or phone. Also included is an emergency call button for the driver, as well as crash and rollover detection.

The technology also offers Smart Zones Geofencing with zone arrival and departure alerts.

Another feature is live fleet and dispatch, a fleet-locating and mapping interface, with vehicles able to be located through address searches, GPS locations, and last communicated positions.

Speed notifications are based on posted speed limits through Inthinc’s Street-by-Street capability and can be set for speed and device sensitivity.

According to Inthinc, the in-cab mentoring has demonstrated a more than 80% reduction in speeding violations and aggressive driving. The technology behind tiwiPro is estimated to have prevented more than 200 crashes and 65 injuries and to have saved companies nearly $19 million in damages over 155 million documented miles.

TiwiPro is typically installed after vehicles are purchased, although it can be looped into the vehicle bid process as well.

Monitoring driver behavior is one factor in safety. Driving vehicles with the tools necessary to help ensure that is another.

It’s practically standard for waste collection vehicles to come equipped with safety cameras, notes Kevin Watje, chief executive officer of Wayne Engineering, a longtime advocate of doing so.

“First, take the decision-making about whether you’re going to be safe or unsafe out of the thing. Anything that’s safe should be put on as a standard item, not as an option,” he says. “From that point, you make it available for your customers so they can afford it and don’t have to make a decision about safety.”

Safety cameras also augment ergonomics by allowing drivers to back up, maneuver more quickly, and get a good view of their surroundings, Watje says.

Since backing up accounts for the causes of a significant number of accidents, “most of the safety process has its genesis in the backing up or the rear of the truck,” Watje says. “Having somebody behind the truck—like in a rearloader—and feeding trash back into the rearloader when nowadays people are using cell phones, drinking their coffee or even reading newspapers while on the road can be a disaster when they’re not seeing that early morning collection crew in front of them stopped and loading.”

Another feature that has become standard is automatic tailgate unlatching and opening, replacing the traditional turnbuckle method.

“The guy had to get out, undo the turnbuckles and walk around the back of the truck,” Watje says. “Anytime you do that, you’re in a blind spot and that’s where accidents happen. There are still a few rearloader vehicles out there with turnbuckles on them, but for the most part, that has become a thing of the past.”

Most of Wayne Engineering’s vehicles do not require an employee to exit the truck at the landfill, Watje says.

“Even with a hydraulic latching system, you still have to get out of the truck, operate the levers, unlatch and open it up,” he says. “The ultimate safety protocol when going to the landfill is to keep the guy in the truck. Getting out of the truck, he’s exposed to machinery and other trucks, as well as whatever is on the floor.”

Lighting also is becoming a more common safety feature in the back of the truck, Watje says.

Case in point: strobe lights, which cause a quicker reaction.

“We have more lighting in the back to try to catch attention,” he says. “But some states won’t allow white strobe lights. Where we can, we encourage it.”

Reflective clothing also is becoming more common, Watje says.

“From our perspective, safety involves public safety—trying not to run over people or knock them over—and employee health and safety, which is ergonomics-related,” says Frank Kennedy, sales director for Curotto-Can Inc.

There are a number of options for waste-collection vehicles that assist from a public safety aspect, including mirrors, rear-vision systems, and Global Sensor System’s infra-red system, which applies the brakes when an object is within a predetermined area, Kennedy points out.

“Companies are interested in that because accidents are expensive and there’s the potential to hurt somebody, which could be a liability issue,” he says.

Curotto-Can’s design for waste-collection vehicles addresses safety and efficiency, Kennedy says, combining a frontloader with an automated, four-second “pickup-dump-return” cycle.

Kennedy contends that system is “the most productive and safest,” compared with traditional automated sideloaders with the arm behind the cab.

That creates a safety hazard, he says.

“The operator is required to rubberneck or use a mirror or some secondary device,” he says. “He’s rubbernecking to do his job 800 times a day. We think that’s a bad idea from an ergonomics standpoint and from a public safety standpoint.

“A car can pull in front of the truck while he’s looking behind. He instinctively takes his foot off the brake and creeps a little forward. He can hit a car, a guy darts out of the driveway, a kid runs in front of the truck—all kinds of things can happen if you’re distracted 800 to 1,000 times a day.”

From an ergonomics standpoint, Kennedy says, his company’s end users like the forward-facing system because they experience fewer neck and back injuries.

Routes are also more efficient when the truck only stops for four seconds, Kennedy adds.

As for trends in safety, Kennedy says his company is seeing end users increasingly request more visibility, enhanced conspicuity, and the use of ‘safety yellow’ paint on vehicles. He’s also seeing greater use of GPS and RFID.

Increased training also is a notable trend, Kennedy says: “We’ve never done more than we’ve done this year. For whatever reason, people want it, need it and we supply it.”

Curotto-Can recently was part of a pilot program in Charleston County, SC, in which it was compared with a “best of class” automated sideloader and a new frontloader equipped with the Curotto-Can system. The loaders were equipped with GPS and RFID and piloted on 5,000 homes whose carts had RFID tags.

“They ran each truck alternating days of the week with the same driver and they determined via data the first time ever that our system was 22% to 25% more efficient in that environment,” Kennedy says. “They also determined that they were putting eight gallons less fuel in them.”

As a result, Kennedy says, the system is being adopted in the county in two phases.

Tom Robbins, director of engineering for E-Z Pack, points out that while his company conforms to ANSI requirements for the safety requirements for vehicles, at a client’s request, and for extra cost, the trucks may include third-party manufactured features not necessarily included in ANSI, such as backup cameras and monitors and brake-activation devices that will set the brakes when the truck gets too close to an object.

Robbins says such features are becoming increasingly common in vehicle bid specifications, as companies continually seek ways to keep employees safe.

Another concern is that of liability costs, addressed through warnings, decals, wording, and placement as defined by ANSI standards, Robbins says.

“Manufacturers are keenly aware of the fact that our end users want to make sure their employees are safe,” he says. “We feel very much compelled to do that, not just because people who buy our equipment want to keep their employees safe, but we want to have a safe piece of equipment—it’s a mutual goal.”

To that end, many operations maintain safety directors or safety personnel and may provide a financial incentive for safe driving, says Robbins.

Operations in the public and private sector are increasingly specifying certain safety measures based on previous accident experiences, Robbins says.

“The ANSI group within our industry has a party line that tells of accidents and problems in our industry so we can be aware of it and be cognizant in how to design around that in the future,” he notes.

“The manufacturer will typically take the attitude that even though ANSI is a voluntary compliance standard, it’s something you provide because it’s the right thing to do.”

In Tallahassee, FL, the 87 drivers of solid waste collection trucks who service 46,000 customers are given annual financial incentives for having no accidents.

Lighting also is becoming a more common safety feature in the back of the truck, Watje says.

Case in point: strobe lights, which cause a quicker reaction.

“We have more lighting in the back to try to catch attention,” he says. “But some states won’t allow white strobe lights. Where we can, we encourage it.”

Reflective clothing also is becoming more common, Watje says.

“From our perspective, safety involves public safety—trying not to run over people or knock them over—and employee health and safety, which is ergonomics-related,” says Frank Kennedy, sales director for Curotto-Can Inc.

There are a number of options for waste-collection vehicles that assist from a public safety aspect, including mirrors, rear-vision systems, and Global Sensor System’s infra-red system, which applies the brakes when an object is within a predetermined area, Kennedy points out.

“Companies are interested in that because accidents are expensive and there’s the potential to hurt somebody, which could be a liability issue,” he says.

Curotto-Can’s design for waste-collection vehicles addresses safety and efficiency, Kennedy says, combining a frontloader with an automated, four-second “pickup-dump-return” cycle.

Kennedy contends that system is “the most productive and safest,” compared with traditional automated sideloaders with the arm behind the cab.

That creates a safety hazard, he says.

“The operator is required to rubberneck or use a mirror or some secondary device,” he says. “He’s rubbernecking to do his job 800 times a day. We think that’s a bad idea from an ergonomics standpoint and from a public safety standpoint.

“A car can pull in front of the truck while he’s looking behind. He instinctively takes his foot off the brake and creeps a little forward. He can hit a car, a guy darts out of the driveway, a kid runs in front of the truck—all kinds of things can happen if you’re distracted 800 to 1,000 times a day.”

From an ergonomics standpoint, Kennedy says, his company’s end users like the forward-facing system because they experience fewer neck and back injuries.

Routes are also more efficient when the truck only stops for four seconds, Kennedy adds.

As for trends in safety, Kennedy says his company is seeing end users increasingly request more visibility, enhanced conspicuity, and the use of ‘safety yellow’ paint on vehicles. He’s also seeing greater use of GPS and RFID.

Increased training also is a notable trend, Kennedy says: “We’ve never done more than we’ve done this year. For whatever reason, people want it, need it and we supply it.”

Curotto-Can recently was part of a pilot program in Charleston County, SC, in which it was compared with a “best of class” automated sideloader and a new frontloader equipped with the Curotto-Can system. The loaders were equipped with GPS and RFID and piloted on 5,000 homes whose carts had RFID tags.

“They ran each truck alternating days of the week with the same driver and they determined via data the first time ever that our system was 22% to 25% more efficient in that environment,” Kennedy says. “They also determined that they were putting eight gallons less fuel in them.”

As a result, Kennedy says, the system is being adopted in the county in two phases.

Tom Robbins, director of engineering for E-Z Pack, points out that while his company conforms to ANSI requirements for the safety requirements for vehicles, at a client’s request, and for extra cost, the trucks may include third-party manufactured features not necessarily included in ANSI, such as backup cameras and monitors and brake-activation devices that will set the brakes when the truck gets too close to an object.

Robbins says such features are becoming increasingly common in vehicle bid specifications, as companies continually seek ways to keep employees safe.

Another concern is that of liability costs, addressed through warnings, decals, wording, and placement as defined by ANSI standards, Robbins says.

“Manufacturers are keenly aware of the fact that our end users want to make sure their employees are safe,” he says. “We feel very much compelled to do that, not just because people who buy our equipment want to keep their employees safe, but we want to have a safe piece of equipment—it’s a mutual goal.”

To that end, many operations maintain safety directors or safety personnel and may provide a financial incentive for safe driving, says Robbins.

Operations in the public and private sector are increasingly specifying certain safety measures based on previous accident experiences, Robbins says.

“The ANSI group within our industry has a party line that tells of accidents and problems in our industry so we can be aware of it and be cognizant in how to design around that in the future,” he notes.

“The manufacturer will typically take the attitude that even though ANSI is a voluntary compliance standard, it’s something you provide because it’s the right thing to do.”

In Tallahassee, FL, the 87 drivers of solid waste collection trucks who service 46,000 customers are given annual financial incentives for having no accidents.

Global Sensor Systems includes an audible warning on the control box that will sound—as lights go off—to alert the driver what’s going on behind the truck.

“When the system has detected an object—such as a person or vehicle—and the object moves out of the protected area, then you can back up the vehicle,” says Glenn. “Or there is an override for the automatic braking feature on the control box, so the driver can touch the switch on the control box in the cab and continue to back up if the driver is satisfied it’s safe to do so.”

The automatic braking feature can be put back into the system by touching the “on” switch on the control box in the cab, or the next time that vehicle is placed in reverse, the automatic braking feature is automatically reset. Thus, the system is not driver dependent for resetting the braking feature.

“Sometimes the driver is busy looking at mirrors and other things and doesn’t look at the monitor when there’s a closed-circuit television system there,” says Glenn. “That has happened and people have had accidents. The best drivers sometimes have accidents. They’re distracted.”

Global Sensor Systems is installed as part of a vehicle specification and as an aftermarket addition. Global Sensor Systems offers DVDs for driver training.

Liability has become a major issue driving the decision to use more systems such as Global Sensor Systems, Glenn says.

Public perception—driven by accident statistics—is also very critical, he adds.

“It’s important for a large corporation to communicate to the public that you are doing everything you can to keep them safe, including the workers,” Glenn says. “Most of these companies are genuinely concerned about and wanting to do everything as safely as possible.”

One company that has written Global Sensor Systems into its specifications for new vehicles and is retrofitting its existing fleet with the technology is Veolia Environmental Services North America.

The company provides a full range of services to commercial, industrial and residential customers in 12 states, the Bahamas, and Canada, operating 72 collection facilities and 29 solid waste sanitary landfill facilities in North America.

“We feel that the true safety experts are the employees in the field—they are the ones who are the safety managers,” says Ken Arms, regional safety manager for Veolia in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.

“Each employee, every day, is responsible for operating safely, and the company is also responsible for providing safe equipment to them in as safe as possible work environment.”

Several months ago, Veolia formed a rapid-action team to look at various truck specifications, primarily from a standpoint of safety, but also to create more consistency in truck specifications.

The team considered backing accidents as a factor.

“Backing accidents are near or at the top of the list of frequency year in and year out,” says Arms. “In any given year, backing accidents account for 20% to 30% of all solid waste accidents.”

Because of that, most trucks in most solid waste fleets have backing cameras on them, he says.

“Yet, we continue to have these backing accidents,’ he says. “Our team agreed that this is a problem and we need to address it as a top priority.”

The team performed field tests with active and passive systems and ultimately decided to equip new trucks and retrofit existing ones with Global Sensor Systems.

“We believed the active system gives you that one last line of defense before the backing accident occurs,” says Arms. “It’s always up to the driver to perform a safe backing operation. If the Global Sensor Systems locks you down, you need to get out and look to see why.”

Augmenting the technology at Veolia are defensive driving programs for new hires and on-the-job training. The company has monthly safety meetings and also utilizes the Smith System’s professional driver training.

“We’re hoping to put a real big dent in these backing accidents with these Global systems,” Arms says.

For more than three decades, Intec Video Systems has produced video cameras for use in the refuse industry, among others. The company has seven products within its XL Series of Car Vision cameras, including black and white and color models.

The color systems are available in standard and extreme-duty models, offering clear, flat-panel imaging designed for a wide range of applications. Intec Video Systems also provides color zoom and infrared cameras.

Years ago, what was once regarded as a “gadget” is now considered a necessity against the backdrop of the cost of accidents to a refuse operation, points out Roy Barbatti, national sales manager for Intec Video Systems.

“In fact, in the state of California now, it’s mandatory that every new garbage truck have a working camera before it can be delivered,” he says. “It’s tied into the backup alarm for the Department of Transportation so consequently, if the camera is not working, you can’t move your vehicle.”

Mirrors do not display everything around a vehicle, Barbatti points out. To address that, he says his company has designed its system to provide a large field of view and low-light sensitivity.

The cameras are typically included in municipal and private company vehicle bid specs, Barbatti says.

“Some of the companies are putting three to five cameras on a vehicle because they want them for alley view, as well as the hopper and the arm,” he says. “It’s more than just looking directly behind you.

“A frontloader, for instance, must pull up to a bin, dump it, and set it back down, and the first thing you have to do is back up. If you’re in a schoolyard where there are children—and usually there are one-man vehicles operating now—that frontloader has to back up and be able to see. What you really need is the greatest field of view so you can see as far as you can rather than just looking down and seeing just your bumper.”

Intec Video Systems also tie into radar.

“We have that set up into our system and built into our monitor, which not only by sound but by lighting tells you just how close the thing is behind you to look at your monitor,” says Barbatti.

Barbatti says the advantage of using a black-and-white system comes in its low-light sensitivity.

“We’re now getting better with color, but color has a different lux factor,” he says. “With the lowest point in black and white at .05 lux and just moonlight itself, you can see perfectly clear. Many vehicles are operating at midnight and around the clock. You have to be able to see.”

Intec Video Systems does not use filters, Barbatti says.

“A lot of companies use LED, but that means you can only see clear as far as the LED can see, but not as far as the eye can see,” he adds.

The camera systems are now becoming vehicle bid spec items for major operations, Barbatti says.

Addressing the relationship between safety and efficiency, Barbatti points out that operations these days can’t afford to have a worker standing behind a truck, directing the driver in backing up.

Not only is that inefficient, but it also presents potential accidents involving the employee outside of the truck if the driver doesn’t see him, he adds.

“It’s a creature comfort for a man to be able to see more than just the mirrors,” Barbatti says. “If the truck is automated, he can see the arm move out and know what he’s grabbing and go up into the hopper so he can see the hopper’s empty, so he doesn‘t tip the can. A lot of this is about how you keep the truck on the route and not damage the cans and containers and the efficiency of being able to utilize that truck to the best potential profitability and not be down.”

The PreView Radar system from Preco Electronics offers multiple configurations for refuse trucks. The most integrated system offered includes almost 360 degrees of coverage and integrates cameras and sensors that are strategically placed in areas most often out of the driver’s view, says Mark Regan, national sales manager and waste expert for Preco Electronics.

The system includes three main tools that work in concert:

  • The PreView Rear Object Detection sensor and camera combination—The sensor detects people and objects directly behind the refuse truck; the operator receives an audible alert. The driver utilizes the camera to visually validate the obstruction while indicators illuminate on the screen, giving the driver a general proximity of the distance between the sensor and the object detected.

  • The PreView Side Object Detection sensor and camera combination—This sensor detects items to the side of the vehicle, allowing drivers to enter traffic safely.

  • Strategically placed cameras—One is placed at the rear, the other on the opposite side of the driver. When nothing is detected by the sensors, the driver sees a split screen showing both camera views on the monitor. Once something is detected, the monitor will automatically switch to the full screen of the area where the radar picked up an object, allowing the driver to easily see the danger and assess how close the detected item is to the vehicle. The system also can be simplified to a single sensor on the back with an in-cab LED display.

Regan says he’s seen customers add PreView Radar systems at the OEM level for new refuse trucks while also rolling out the system by region, state, or vehicle life in the existing fleet.

He also notes solid waste operations are reducing or eliminating group incentive programs while incorporating individual incentives.

“The concern has been people aren’t reporting close calls or minor injuries when there is a group incentive on the line as they don’t want to be the person who cost the team their safety bonuses,” he says.

FleetMind Solutions Inc. manufactures a scalable fleet management system that enables waste-collection operations to improve efficiencies in incremental steps as managers see fit.

“Onboard computers are placed on the fleet of trash collection vehicles, which are connected to the electronic control module [ECM] of the truck and has GPS and various peripheral connections that include a driver interface, cameras, scales, RFID reader, and different components with different purposes,” says Don Padilla, vice president.

“The entire system is seamlessly connecting the haulers’ mobile asset—the garbage truck on the street—in real time to the haulers’ routing and billing systems, and the route management system [RMS], where you have various tools to help manage the fleet. It’s doing more than just seeing where the truck is on a map—all of this data is being sent into the RMS software in real time, allowing you to capture everything that is happening with the truck, including driver behavior, truck diagnostics, and service verification throughout the day.”

That includes RPM, speed, hard braking, excessive idling, time, service verification, extras, exceptions, and disposal information.

“You’re also recording time stamps of events such as gate crossings, what time a customer was serviced, how long it took, when did the driver go to the landfill/transfer station, as well as any incremental activities, such as lunch breaks or downtime. It also records the system, records stops that are serviced and not serviced, and, if not serviced, it allows the driver to record the reason it wasn’t serviced,” Padilla says.

FleetMind can accommodate a camera for times the driver needs to take a photo for service verification, such as a car blocking access to a waste container.

“It’s like having the CEO of the company driving with the driver all day long,” Padilla says. “How much differently would he operate that vehicle and how much differently would he run his route? The CEO gets to travel along with him, because in essence that’s what you’re doing. You know everything that truck is doing.”

Not all companies jump in and get the onboard controls with all of the peripherals to start, Padilla says. Some start with a GPS and engine data (ECM) option so they can track their trucks and driver behavior.

“They start with that module, and then they can add to it,” he says. “Our system is designed to be scalable. From there, they can add a driver interface, a hand-held unit, a flat-screen unit, a camera system, an RFID system, a scale system—all of these peripherals to build up to whatever they want to accomplish.”

The industry is in its infancy stages for onboard computing and tracking, says Padilla. FleetMind has about 10% of the market covered with its technology—including several of the top 10 haulers—and Padilla has seen a significantly growing interest over the last two years.

“Five years ago, we were convincing people that they needed technology to help them gain efficiency,” he says. “Now they know that it works because it’s been in the market all these years and it’s proved itself ... so it’s just a matter of when they are going to deploy rather than if they are going to deploy.”

FleetMind enables supervisors to go beyond a verbal report from someone in the community complaining about a truck driver’s habits, to actual verification.

“You can also create a variety of alarms to help you manage by exception,” says Padilla. “For example, if you don’t ever want the driver to idle any more than six minutes, you can configure the system to create an excessive idle alarm, which when triggered will send an e-mail to notify a supervisor and it gets reported into a reporting module.

“So you can pull up all of the alarms a driver had over a period of time and coach them to better safety and productivity. You can notice hard-braking incidents, which usually indicate someone is driving too close to the car ahead. You actually have hard data you can sit down and show the driver.”

FleetMind also produces an idling and a fuel consumption report, which helps managers identify the correlation between the idle time and the amount of fuel being used.

“When you sit down with the driver, you can show him the exact data that correlate to his route versus the other drivers in the fleet. It makes a huge difference in their buy-in and especially on safety related programs,” Padilla says.

The system also helps with efficiency. “There’s a saying in the industry: ‘There’s no such thing as a bad customer, just bad pricing,” Padilla says. “Let’s say you have two customers who both have the same level of service and a 6-yard container serviced once a week. One customer has mostly paperwaste with some solid waste in it that weighs 100 pounds a yard and the other has mostly solid waste weighing more than 180 pounds a yard, but then they’re both priced the same way because both have a 6-yard dumpster.

“By having a scale on the vehicle that measures each customer, you can easily differentiate between the two and price your customers properly,” he adds. “Then there are those extra six bags by the side of the container. In the past, we would always charge the customer for that extra, but half the time they would dispute the charge. With the FleetMind system, you take the picture of the extras with GPS location, time-stamped and dated so there are no disputes.”

Traditionally, systems such as FleetMind have been an aftermarket product.

“Most of the large haulers now have started what we call a ‘smart’ fleet initiative—they know the future and they’re very cognizant as to the driver’s experience,” Padilla says. “They’re asking us now if we can begin to talk to manufacturers and have our system specified so when they order the trucks, they want to be able to order the FleetMind option so the system will come in the truck right from the manufacturer.”

J&J Refuse in Dover, OH, integrates FleetMind into it operations.

“We use it to confirm that we have completed all of our stops,” says Keith Walker, the company’s controller. “We use it to know where the drivers are, how far along they are on their routes, and whether they need help getting their routes completed.”

J&J Refuse uses FleetMind for communication between the back office and the vehicles.

“They can text us back and forth,” Walker says. “Almost all of our trucks have backup cameras that are integrated within the FleetMind system to show up on the screen, so when they put the truck in reverse, the camera images the full screen, when they put it back in drive to go forward, the camera image is in the bottom quarter of the screen.

“For safety, it’s a big thing because they can see what’s directly behind them and they also hear what’s behind them as they’re backing up,” Walker says.

FleetMind helps the office staff at J&J Refuse track the locations of the truck, so if something were to happen, the staff could flag problems and intervene.

Also, the drivers can use the system to send a message that goes out to all of the managers simultaneously, so if one person is not available, someone else can step in to respond.

J&J Refuse does a weeklong training of new hires for both safety and efficiencies.

In addition to cameras, there are other safety technologies adding to the safety value of solid waste collection.

According to research studies by Brake Sentry, brake adjustment defects account for nearly one-third of all truck crashes and have the highest rate of out-of-service violations.

Brake Sentry is a visual brake stroke indicator designed for severe-duty vocational applications. The stationary referencing gauge shows the legal stroke limit, and a pushrod indicator is at each brake chamber, enabling visual inspection for out-of-adjustment conditions without having to rely on “feel.”

Daniel Judson, technical director for Brake Sentry, says there is confusion in the industry’s fleet maintenance operations with respect to proper inspection and maintenance of brakes equipped with automatic slack adjusters.

Most technicians routinely perform manual adjustment to automatic slack adjusters rather than measure the “applied stroke” of the pushrod to identify defects for correction, he says.

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that “manually adjusting automatic slack adjusters is dangerous and should not be done except during installation or in an emergency to move the vehicle to a repair facility,” he adds.

When technicians equate adjusting with correcting, they don’t know how to identify or correct contributing causes, so they simply adjust the brakes, Judson adds.

Judson likens that to a mechanic topping off a coolant level in an engine that has lost all of its coolant—while he’s adjusting the level, he’s not correcting the cause, he says.

Common brake maintenance practices conceal brake defects, return defective units to service, drive up costs, increase exposure to risk and liability, and defeat the purpose of preventative maintenance inspections, Judson adds.

The likelihood that some brakes will be out of adjustment is high, given long intervals between preventative maintenance procedures and other factors that adversely affect the function of automatic brake adjusters, causing accelerated wear on those brakes in compliance and ultimately result in more frequent brake work, downtime, and parts and labor expense, he says.

Although there is one municipal solid waste operation that had Brake Sentry factory installed, in most cases it is done on existing equipment with the installation being simple, Judson says.

“Because of CSA2010 implementation, there’s a lot more focus being put on compliance, typically because brakes are typically the number-one service violation, so people are looking for solutions to that,” Judson says. “Brake Sentry becomes a very simple solution for the drivers. The drivers are the ones who need to be able to inspect and identify if there is any brake adjustment. This makes it simple for them. Because of maintenance costs, this also saves a lot in terms of efficiencies because of the time and labor involved.”

When it comes to checking loose wheel nuts, the typical method is a visual and tactile inspection.

“When drivers leave their vehicles, they are supposed to do a walk around and physically touch the nuts to make sure they aren’t loosening,” says Stefni Walters.

Walters is the owner of Wheel-Check, a loose wheel-nut indicator used on commercial vehicles, including waste disposal trucks. Wheel-Check is a triangular plastic part affixed to the wheel-nuts that change position when one of the nuts is loose. The ends point in the same direction, so when the indicator is out of line with the others, it indicates a loose nut that is evident when someone walks around the truck to do a visual inspection.

“There are a lot of problems with weight loads and not doing correct maintenance on the nuts,” Walters points out. “There’s wear and tear and they will lock off. It’s like wearing a seat belt—it’s one of those extra safety precautions you want to take.”

Visibility systems are critical, attention-getting elements of a waste-collection vehicle.

Truck-Lite manufacturers a line of strobes that are mounted on truck roofs, the back of the collection bar, or in a position that takes the place of a turn signal, allowing the signal to serve as a dual-functioning signal and strobe, notes Lee Lydic, national fleet systems development manager for Truck-Lite.

While strobes used to be gas-filled, diode electronics makes is possible for the company to manufacture Class 1 and medium- and high-profile strobe lights, Lydic says.

“They’re not susceptible to the vibration that the gas-type strobes are,” he says. “These particular type strobes in the collection industry create a lot better life expectancy on the lamps because of vibration and everything else involved in the collection of waste.”

The lights are increasingly being written into municipal specifications, Lydic says.

“A company cannot afford to have somebody run in the back of their truck,” he says. “The more light they can put on it to be visible, they want to because a lot of these trucks start out early in the morning.”

Until three years, Truck-Lite could provide lights for the majority of trucks except for the forward-loading ones. That need has been addressed through the introduction of an LED headlight, Lydic adds.

Looking ahead to incorporate more efficiencies, Ruan Transport Corp. is spearheading a project whereby it is running large payloads for a dairy operation with CNG trucks.

And while the company does not have any Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) trucks in place at the time in the solid waste industry, “we are aware that they are beginning to haul a full 80,000 pounds, which is a nationwide top total vehicle limit for Class A trucks and we understand companies are doing some of that work with small fleets at that total payload,” says Ben McLean, senior vice president and CIO for Ruan Transport Corp.

McLean says Ruan has noted solid waste customers are taking the lead in their willingness and readiness to use natural gas as an alternative fuel.

“Waste Management and Republic Services are running a lot of CNG and Liquefied Natural Gas trucks and this really started largely with local refuse hauling trucks,” says McLean. “That’s where the industry has seen the most adoption of CNG-powered vehicles with some of the overall lower gross vehicle weight.”

While Ruan’s first large-scale project with CNG is not in solid waste, “everything we’re learning in that project will be applicable to us moving into the hauling we do for solid waste companies,” McLean notes.

To date, the diligence undertaken by Ruan has proven out and the fleet is performing within the estimated parameters, McLean says.

“[The project] is a large dairy outfit with 30,000 cows that happens to have a lot of solid manure waste that by the first quarter of next year will produce enough renewable natural gas to power the fleet,” he says. “It will be manure that through a digester produces methane gas.”

As for efficiencies, “we knew there was going to be some loss of efficiencies in miles per gallon,” McLean points out.

The price per gallon for natural gas can be about $1.50 less than diesel, but the fuel efficiency is much lower, he says, such as in the 5-miles-per-gallon range. “It makes the break-even or return on investment a bit longer than it would otherwise,” he adds.

Ruan is incorporating CNG engine options through Cummins Westport. It has less horsepower than the company would otherwise put in a unit “and we feel the engines won’t last quite as long, but the engine manufacturers are coming out with larger engines,” says McLean. “This is an 8.9-liter engine and they’re going to come out with 12- and 13-liter engines that burn natural gas. That will be a big improvement for us because we expect the life of those engines in an 80,000 pound total vehicle weight application to last longer.”

As for maintenance, natural-gas engines have spark plugs that must be changed throughout their life cycle, so Ruan is monitoring what it takes to maintain the engines in a normal operating mode, McLean says.

“That may be another area where we just won’t see the same efficiency as we would in a diesel engine,” he says. “Obviously, all of this needs to be covered by the savings in fuel. We’re working very hard to demonstrate that it can work and even work with these larger payloads, which is the niche we see in the market.

“It’s a period of innovation, and we’re one of the players in the market looking to find a better and more sustainable way to do this in a way that supports the US fuel independence as opposed to reliance on petroleum and the global sources we go to in procuring that fuel.”

Author's Bio:

Carol Brzozowski writes on the topics of technology and industry.

http://www.erosioncontrol.com/MSW/articles/15550.aspx