New Demands Drive Chassis Trends

It's easy to get lost in the world of truck specifications and configurations. An estimated 16,000 to 18,000 refuse chassis are reportedly sold each year and, with each purchase, owners hope to increase service, achieve greater productivity and lower labor costs.

When choosing a chassis, it's im-portant to consider the type and size of the refuse body that will be moun-ted. In addition, consider the application (recycling, residential or commercial refuse collection); the length of the route; company size (national conglomerates, small private fleets or municipalities); and crew size.

Private haulers play a large role in the refuse industry. Approximately 95 percent of today's industrial waste is reportedly collected by private firms. In addition, private companies handle an estimated 90 percent of commercial waste and 60 percent of residential waste. To se-cure a place in the marketplace, ma-jor private firms are continuing to purchase many smaller refuse companies.

Times Are Changing "In the last three years or so, man-y of the independents we serve have upgraded to 'better' trucks," said George Ralich, president of R & R Truck Sales Inc. in Akron Ohio. For example, Ralich said that customers who used to buy compaction bodies with a 20 to 25 yard capacity now want a capacity of 25 to 31 yards.

Subtitle D of the Re-source Conservation and Recovery Act has contributed to this trend. Many counties can no longer afford to open new landfills or even maintain existing ones. In many cases, the closest landfill may be 100 miles away. As a result, a truck with equipment which was originally speced for short hauls will no longer do.

The drive to stay competitive and cost-effective is another reason for the change in specifications, Ralich said. "Instead of saving money by trying to make-do with lighter specs, buyers have speced a heavier duty chassis," Ralich said. Most residential routes, Ralich added, are being handled by 25- 31- yard rear loaders.

In California, lighter chassis are the big trend, according to Cameron Spicer of Solag Disposal, San Juan Capistrano, Calif. "We switched to WhiteGMCs with lighter frames. It gives us an additional 800 pounds or so and we need it due to the vigorous weight laws. Sometimes they will weigh us after a heavy rain and even if we're legal, the rain makes us o-verweight."

Dave Barletta, a Mack Trucks ac-count executive who is responsible for the fleet of Waste Management Inc., Chicago, said that recycling has put heavier demands on operational expenses. Individual trucks are in demand to collect wastes, recyclable materials, compost and organic ma-terials and other special materials such as refrigerators and air conditioners. Since the demands of the in-dustry are driving operation costs sky-high, companies can no longer afford to run two- and three-person operations.

Common Purchasing Errors "Looking at only the initial price, instead of life cycle costs, is the big-gest purchasing mistake you can make," said John Callaway, a medium-duty truck sales manager at Tri-ad Freightliner, Greensboro, N.C. "Since Freightliner's Business Class models have been introduced, a lot of private firms have looked at life-cycle costs, including initial price, maintenance and fuel costs, uptime and driver comfort and productivity," Callaway added.

For example, in the last two years, American Refuse System, Pinehurst, N.C., has bought 30 units for North Carolina, South Carolina and Geor-gia operations. The company has bought two different configurations:

* A tandem axle rear loader, 54,000 pounds GVW; and

* A single axle, 33,000 pounds GVW, right-hand drive with recycling bodies.

The general specifications are the same for both configurations, especially the drivetrain, featuring a 250-hp Cummins 8.3 liter diesel. The single axle may be more heavily speced than some single axles but A-merican Refuse wants to standardize parts and service for substantial sa-vings.

Randy Bradley, a refuse chassis salesperson for Dallas Peterbilt Inc., a dealership that sells between 250 to 300 refuse chassis a year, said that a new trend is developing in the East towards the manual side loader which takes a drop frame to lower the body for pitch-in height and a dual drive, right-hand stand-up, left-hand sit cab. "For users of fully automated side loaders, a right-hand sit only is available because some companies are attempting to cut the size of their crews," Bradley said.

"The purchasing process, however, has not changed. The majors tell us what kind of body they are ordering and we will bid direct to them on just the chassis. On the other hand, with municipalities, we have to work with the body companies to submit one bid, a complete chassis/body package."

The largest trend, according to Bradley, is towards safer equipment and operations. "Visibility is a big factor. Buyers want the driver to know where he or she going. I feel the use of video cameras showing pictures of the rear of the truck will be widely accepted within just a short period of time."

Other dealers agree: the move tow-ards safety has arrived and, as a re-sult, the use of cameras is growing rapidly. In fact, industry studies re-port that 66 percent of short haul accidents occur while the truck is backing up, and more than six out of 10 drivers are injured from the accident.

The perception of how durable the camera really is has been the biggest obstacle to video camera growth. Some buyers be-lieve that a refuse compactor body would render these cameras use- less. Intec Video Sys-tems in Laguana Hills, Calif. reports that cameras are rated to take four to nine times the force of gravity and some have been in use for more than 10 years. Waste fleet managers report that an overhanging tree limb is more likely to destroy a camera than vibration.

Two-way audio systems that allow drivers to communicate with someone in the vehicle's path also are available. Solag Disposal, with 75 Class 7 trucks, uses this audio system along with a three-camera viewing system.

Drivers can see if something is in the way of their backing maneuvers and if children on bikes are about to hitch a ride down the street, said Cameron Spicer, Solag Disposal's operations manager. The company also has installed two extra cameras on the right-hand steer trucks for drivers to watch the mechanical can-tipping arm on the right side and contents dumping into the top of the packer body.

The video viewing should prevent drivers from twisting their neck and also allows the driver to watch what is being dumped so that substances such as aerosol cans are not mixed in with the trash. Although, the driver won't try to dig it out, he or she can report the substance so that it can be sorted out later.

Pedro Branda, a Laidlaw Waste Systems safety manager, said his 120-truck fleet averaged four accidents per month while backing up. After installing a camera and monitor system manufactured by Clarion Sales Corp., Gardena, Calif., on 70 single-driver trucks, the accident rate dropped to zero in six months.

A single-camera system costs ap-proximately $1,000 to $2,000 and a second or third camera costs another $500 to $1,000.

The move to automatic side loaders or all one-person vehicles is the key to success, according to Barry Allen, a refuse vehicles product sales manager for Peterbilt Motors, Den-ton, Texas.

"The East Coast has recently be-gun to switch from rear loaders to manual side loaders for residential pick-ups. The West Coast, however, has been using manual side loaders and is moving to automatic side loaders, in which the drivers never have to leave the cab. These units generally require a right-side, sit-down position. If they have the left-side drive, the driver has to look through the rear window of the cab. Some bodies just can't be used at all with left-side vehicles controls.

"The manual side loaders in residential areas have right-side, stand-up positions so a driver can step out right near the body openings. These require 16-inch or so lower 'step-in' heights. The chassis cost more, but the savings are in labor reductions," Allen said.

For better visibility and maneuverability, buyers have moved from conventional cabs to low cab forward chassis, Allen said.

"While the rear packer is the primary body today, I feel that the au-tomated side loader will increase in popularity for residential customers, said Bill Thomas of Freightliner, Portland, Ore. People are the only barrier to automation, Thomas said. "For automation to succeed, residents must move parked cars, use the right containers and position the carts correctly. Automated is not right for all applications; it is most efficient in high density areas."

Customers not using automated side loading bodies with left-hand drive chassis will probably spec right-hand stand-up drives to avoid exiting/entering into traffic and to reduce steps.

John Ovyiack, a salesperson at Los Angeles Freightliner, Whittier, Calif., echoes that point and adds that everything else in the refuse in-dustry is regionalized. "In the West, waste companies are more and more weight sensitive, and automated collection vehicles are becoming the norm. This makes it tough on me since they require low cab forward trucks, and we don't have one yet."

East, South Still Heavy "On the other hand," he added, "the East and South use more rear loaders and heavier vehicles since the weight laws are less onerous. We're concentrating on the recycling market, separate in itself. We put our Business Class FL-70 under most of the bodies. They generally take a Cummins C-250 hp 10, 23,000 pound axles and an Allison New World automatic transmission." Estimates show that approximately 90 percent of on-road compaction trucks have automatic transmissions.

According to Onyiack, another trend is the compaction body with separate compartments for glass and plastic and paper.

"In Texas, there is a move to light-er chassis for recycling bodies. For example, many are using Ford F800 Class 5-6 chassis with the Ford/ Cummins 175-190 horsepower en-gine instead of a 54,000 pound GVW chassis with a Cummins L10 300 horsepower engine, Scott Barnes, a new truck sales manager at the Grande Truck Center in San Anton-io, said. "The reason is the lighter loads carried by recycling trucks. They're also more maneuverable, but this is not a problem in this area."

According to Barnes, most of his business is from municipalities since the independent contractors are being bought and none of these companies purchase from his San An-tonio area.

In Livonia, Mich., Tom Dotson, a heavy truck salesman for Motor City Ford Truck Inc., has noticed the following trends:

* Using four load axles instead of just two in the rear. The price difference could reach $11,000 which helps account for price increases of approximately 25 percent in the last two years.

* Better unloading facilities have resulted in fewer trucks on routes. Garbage trucks, compost trucks and recycling trucks used to be on each route, which would cost approximately $300,000 per route. Now, with better separation capability at unloading sites, recycling trucks have been eliminated in many different cases.

* More hook lifts. Mounted at the back of the cab, it uses hydraulics to pull roll-on, roll-off cans onto the body bed. It replaces the cable and winch arrangement and produces more versatility by allowing a wider array of equipment to be carried.

When purchasing a chassis, productivity is an important consideration, but don't forget which features will ensure driver safety.

The City of Philadelphia's specifications include three factors which are not traditionally found in a high cab straight truck chassis: ex-cellent visibility, low-silhouetted cabs and wide, unhinged doors.

The city requires excellent visibility through the forward windshield and rearview mirrors, Philadel-phia's Fleet Manager, Riley P. Har-rison, said.

A 1980s internal study showed that low entry cabs reduced the number of job-related injuries, particularly to the knee and toe. The doors must be wide since refuse operators enter and exit the cab hundreds of times during the day and, according to Harrison, hinged doors take more time to open and can open into traffic. The city currently uses Crane Carrier, Osh-kosh and Lodal trucks.

John Groh, acting superintendent of Southeastern Public Ser-vice Authority (SPSA) in the tidewater area of Virginia has 50 recycling trucks. All the trucks were specified on bid forms as low-entry, curbside trucks with dual steering and controls. The SPSA requires drivers to manually collect materials from 400 to 500 homes per day.

"It saves a lot of knee injuries," Groh said. Also, he added, the large windshield creates a feeling of safety for the operator. With larger windows, the driver can see more of the area around him.