Megan Greenwalt, Freelance writer

May 27, 2015

7 Min Read
Using Data in Managing Waste & Recycling Fleets

As on-board fleet and equipment technology evolves, collection operators have to be smart in analyzing the data these technologies are collecting to effectively utilize the information to help them make better business decisions. They need to know how to identify trends and drive greater efficiencies, improve return on investment, and advance waste diversion goals.

Several industry experts will be discussing the best ways to use data at this year’s Waste Expo on June 1 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev., during the “Fleet and Equipment Data Collection -- From Analysis Paralysis to Optimal Performance” session on Monday, June 1 from 1:30 to 2:45. Waste360 sat down with two of the session’s panelists—Alan Housley, vice president of marketing for LoadMan On-Board Truck Scales based in Renton, Wash., and Dina Reider-Hicks, public affairs manager for Waste Management Inc. of Florida—to get a sneak peek at some of the best practices their companies utilize.

Waste360: What are some of the most popular on-board fleet and equipment technologies?

Alan Housley: Some of the most popular on-board fleet and equipment technologies include the following:

  • On-board truck scales with greater than 99 percent accuracy

  • Weigh-in-motion on-board truck scales for front end loaders (mostly commercial)

  • Weigh-in-motion on-board truck scales for rear load cart tippers

  • On-board rear loader on-board truck scales

  • Roll-off bin on-board truck scales

  • On-board computers for downloading routes and assisting drivers

  • Load management software for automating data from cart to report

  • Asset tracking and management -- This is mostly a software feature-but GPS location services are used as well.

  • RFID readers, antennas and chips for tracking residential carts—this is new but will become increasingly necessary.

Dina Reider-Hicks: One of our goals at Waste Management is to know more about our customers and how better to serve them than anyone else in the industry. To help us meet this goal, we have engaged state-of-the-art technology on our front lines, which means directly in our trucks and within our local operations centers. 

Waste Management has deployed a new tablet-based on-board computing system in our fleet that provides us with the ability to monitor truck location and activity in real time. Plus, this GPS-based system enables us to verify timing and execution of services at customer locations.

We have eliminated wasteful paper routing sheets in our collection vehicles; our Waste Management drivers now have tablets in their vehicles showing each day’s route and specific customer information. Our “Plan vs. Actual” tool is an electronic routing system, illustrating each day’s planned routes. This GPS-based system shows in real time the route completion for each day and helps us to determine if we are running the route as efficiently as possible. 

Waste Management installed the DriveCam video capture system in its vehicles in 2013 to improve safety and reduce collisions. A palm-sized video recorder, it continuously captures what is happening 120 degrees in front of the vehicle, as well as inside the cab. Once an event is triggered ― by sudden movement, hard braking, speeding, or a collision ― the unit records, saves, and sends 12 seconds of the incident to DriveCam personnel for review and then on to Waste Management managers for performance coaching. The system also has aided law enforcement both on the roadways and within our communities. Our drivers can manually start the DriveCam system as part of our Waste Watch program, where our drivers serve as an extra set of eyes and ears for law enforcement and emergency responders. With the focus on improving safety, reducing collisions and ensuring safety within our communities, DriveCam has now been installed in Waste Management vehicles nationwide.

Waste360: How long has the industry used these technologies?

Alan Housley: The industry has been using on-board scale technology for about 15 years and using data collection software like LoadMan Load Management, Soft-Pak, Trux for about 10 years.

The original application of the automation was to gather load data and provide rich data records to the back office so that haulers could better manage their business by eliminating overweight truck fines, no under loading for greater productivity, determining route profitability, ensuring efficient use of their most crucial piece of capital equipment, and tracking drivers – especially for “unauthorized” load pickups.

Dina Reider-Hicks: Waste Management has always been at the leading edge of utilizing technology to better serve our customers. Some of our systems have been in place for several years. Others are more recent, such as DriveCam, which we installed in 2013. In the past, data collection was sometimes a slow, tedious process. The information was available, but it would take much longer to generate and then to analyze.  Real-time information and data enables us to be much more nimble and responsive to our customers.

Waste360: What is the best way collection operators can utilize the data they collect?

Alan Housley: Keep using the data to better manage profitability, productivity and top line revenue.

Provide data to the growing needs of municipalities, campuses and military bases that require the data to track their aggressive sustainability programs—especially those that are zero waste.

Haulers who do not prepare for the needs of their customers (that also includes corporations, real estate holdings, shopping malls, construction and demolition) will be left behind their competitors who do prepare and provide these crucial environmental/sustainability data records and reports.

Data collection must be automated from cart to report to ensure they are accurate, with high integrity—meaning no paper and no paper handling, and timely—today not in three months.

Dina Reider-Hicks: Safety is paramount at Waste Management, and we utilize these many of these tools to help keep our employees and communities safe. We also use these tools to improve our efficiency to better serve our customers.

Waste360: How can the data effectively be utilized to drive greater efficiencies?

Alan Housley: The latest driver of data for both the haulers benefit and their clients is waste diversion from landfills to material recycling facilities (MRFs). Zero waste is no longer a grass roots dream. It is a commitment in major cities, institutions, and the federal government. The U.S. Army must meet zero waste across all U.S. bases by 2020. This cannot be achieved without automated hardware and software for collecting, analyzing and reporting the data.

Dina Reider-Hicks: As we know, in business, time is money. The data we generate gives us the ability to review our internal processes to ensure that we are serving customers as safely and efficiently as possible. For example, through our tools, we can determine if rerouting a specific area could save us time, which could, in turn, translate to considerable cost savings for the company. We can then pass these savings on to our customers.

Waste360: How can it be used to improve return on investment?

Alan Housley: Goals can include zero waste, greater recycling rates, best city in the state for organic composting, carbon footprint reduction, landfill fee cost reductions, and so on. The greatest return on investment will be satisfying clients and staying ahead of the competition. We are right at the cusp of providing deeply mined data analytics that will be a game changer for haulers for managing customers, revenue and profit. With just a tap on a smart phone application, waste and recycling hauler management will be able to easily identify profitable and unprofitable customers, routes, trucks, loads, bins, carts. In fact, they will receive alerts if the pick-up is profitable or unprofitable – even down to the individual cart level.

Dina Reider-Hicks: The environmental services industry has evolved into a high tech industry where information is vital to our operation. With the proliferation of available data and information, customers expect and demand that our industry is also onboard. Waste Management’s investment in technology has enabled us to further increase our competitiveness in the marketplace.

Waste360: To advance waste diversion goals?

Alan Housley: The most recent trend for data has been waste diversion as these large clients are measuring their carbon footprint, competing for recycling rate “champion”, and reducing their landfill dump fees. It’s all about the data. Haulers must recognize that the industry is dramatically evolving and that their clients are driving this huge data demand. Haulers must evolve with the industry or their competitors will.

Dina Reider-Hicks: Through our Waste Management Sustainability Services Group, we hold proprietary software that can show municipalities and commercial customers their monthly diversion rates. This tool has been invaluable for our customers by providing them with tonnage data that illustrates their progress in meeting their sustainability goals.  

About the Author(s)

Megan Greenwalt

Freelance writer, Waste360

Megan Greenwalt is a freelance writer based in Youngstown, Ohio, covering collection & transfer and technology for Waste360. She also is the marketing and communications advisor for a property preservation company in Valley View, Ohio, and a member of the Public Relations Society of America. Prior to her current roles, Greenwalt served as the associate editor of Waste & Recycling News for three years and as features editor for a local newspaper in Warren, Ohio, for more than five years. Greenwalt is a 2002 graduate of The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism.

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