Loaded Limousines

Driving a garbage truck is a state of mind.

At a stoplight a refuse truck pulls up next to a limousine. The refuse truck driver is taking his cargo of municipal solid waste to a local transfer station while the limo driver is taking his client to the airport. Both drivers have an important job to do and both want to get to their destinations safely. While many waste companies operate fleets of snazzy looking vehicles, it would still be a bit far-fetched to compare any of these trucks to limousines. However, when it comes to how both of these types of vehicles should be driven, the refuse truck driver may be able to learn a thing or two from watching how the chauffer drives his limousine.

Riding in the back of a limousine with a skilled chauffeur behind the wheel, it is not always possible to tell if the vehicle is moving or stopped without gazing out the window. A good chauffeur provides his clients with a smooth ride that allows them to sleep, jot notes or sip drinks despite the fact that they are in a moving vehicle. The chauffeur accomplishes this through slow, smooth acceleration and deceleration; making all turns at low speeds; and anticipating stopping, slowing and turns well in advance. This type of driving is called “low-forces driving.” It is said that a good chauffeur could drive with an egg taped to both the accelerator and the brake pedal and never break the shell.

While it may not be possible to drive a waste truck exactly like a limousine, the basic concepts still apply. When driving a waste truck, slow, smooth acceleration improves fuel economy and prevents cargo from shifting. Similarly, slow, smooth deceleration also prevents cargo from shifting, reduces brake wear and is easier on the truck's suspension. Taking turns at extra slow speeds helps prevent rollover accidents and reduces stress on the suspension. Scanning the road ahead to anticipate slow-downs, red lights, stop signs and upcoming turns will help the waste truck driver to practice low-forces driving.

There are many immediate and long-term benefits for waste companies whose drivers practice low-forces driving techniques. Fuel savings is one key benefit. A reduced need for vehicle maintenance is another. Managers need only ask their mechanics or maintenance director who the low-force and high-force drivers are. They will know.

Finally, there appears to be a correlation between low-force driving and fewer vehicle accidents. A waste company would be well served by training its personnel to drive its vehicles more like limousines and less like sports cars.

Bruce Hooker works for Mattei Insurance Services, Inc. based in Sacramento, Calif.

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