Mobile In-Cab Devices Mitigate Safety Risks for Waste Haulers

March 20, 2023

5 Min Read
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It’s no secret that safety is one of the top priorities for waste haulers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has consistently ranked solid waste collection in the top six most dangerous jobs in the United States, with fatality rates being as high as ten times the national average.

There’s been a lot of hard work to reverse that trend, including education, training and strategic route planning that considers the needs of the industry. And although much progress has been made, there is still a lot of room to grow to improve safety outcomes.

One method of helping mitigate safety risks for waste haulers -- that is proving to be tremendously valuable – is the utilization of onboard devices that provide safety-conscious routes directly to the drivers. This onboard technology integrates directly with route planning software and wirelessly uploads the route plans into the in-vehicle navigation system.

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Route planning in the solid waste collection industry has unique challenges. Considerations to the side of street for collection, the turn maneuvers, speeds, vehicle capacities and countless other factors need to be carefully accounted for the in the design of the routes. With all this effort poured into designing the safest route plan possible, it is of utmost important for those routes to be executed in the field. This is where in-vehicle technology can close the gap by seamlessly delivering those carefully planned routes directly to the field.

RouteSmart Navigator® and SmartSuite®, from our partners at Integrated Skills Limited, allow drivers to passively receive the route navigation through visual and audible turn-by-turn route navigation through an in-vehicle device. Unlike technology used by other companies that requires driver interaction to verify every service location, Navigator and SmartSuite allow the driver to do what they do best – drive, with minimal distractions. They do not have to interact with the device at every stop.

This is particularly useful in high-density geographies to minimize distraction as well as receive navigation for the overall route. Organizations that prioritize safety in its route planning will also want to provide those plans with safety in the vehicle as a priority as well.

Many solutions on the market require varying levels of interaction both before and during the route. RouteSmart Navigator and SmartSuite were designed with the exclusive intent to minimize driver interaction. Safety is at the core of those technology design decisions. 

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These navigation systems allow drivers to receive the efficient route plans on dedicated devices installed in the collection vehicles. Navigator is installed on a certified device (Microsoft platform) whereas the Android-based SmartSuite, is a “bring your own device” system. Either way, the devices use GPS (global positioning satellite) technology and digital street maps to display the vehicle location and route travel path, ensuring that the driver efficiently follow the route that was planned with utmost safety in mind. 

Both of these systems offer real-time GPS tracking that is transmitted to the administrative back-office.

With the help of RouteSmart and RouteSmart Navigator, the city of Franklin, Tennessee was able to redesign its routes to more than 38,000 households, leading to a 37 percent reduction in annual operating costs due to less miles driven, truck usage, and labor costs.

“One of the most significant ongoing benefits from our partnership with RouteSmart is being able to optimize our routes,” said Bryan Brown, Routing and Operations Analyst at the City of Franklin. “In addition, RouteSmart Navigator has helped tremendously with communications between drivers and our customer service team.”

Cochester Borough, in the United Kingdom, uses Navigator to ensure drivers follow the optimized routes over the travel network, and also to improve driver communication. The depot-based team can either send out broadcast messages and notifications to all drivers – e.g. ‘traffic delay – use High Street access to facility’, or can send and receive messages to/from individual vehicles. The Council rolled out Navigator onto Panasonic Toughpads – ruggedized hardware that can cope with the physical stresses of waste & recycling vehicles, and have proven reliability in difficult conditions.

“The Colchester team continues to be committed to maintaining its newly adopted connected technology – route planning, in-cab and in-depot technology – updating this daily and using the ‘service intelligence’ it provides to further improve the services the Council provides,” ISL’s Business Development Manager Stuart Henshaw said.

Safety awareness in waste collection is a responsibility we all bear. And the methods that are being deployed are working. Recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show a continued decline in injury and illness rates with historic lows for solid waste landfill, collection, and material recovery facility (MRF) workers.

Waste haulers that invest in route planning and optimization solutions, including in-cab navigation devices, are likely to have better safety outcomes, because the software will minimize dangerous turns, needlessly backing up, and other dangerous maneuvers.  

“Common sense would make you think that if a driver doesn’t need to look something up on a computer or look at a piece of paper to determine where their next stop is, they’ll likely be more focused on safety,” said David Biderman, CEO of the Solid Waste Association of North America. “I think companies that design routes to minimize safety hazards such as backing (up), not making (dangerous) left turns, and not picking up garbage underneath power lines, those are organizations, both companies and agencies, that likely have better safety records.”

Jessica Cearfoss
RouteSmart Technologies
Senior Business Development Manager
[email protected]

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