Colorful Haulers

When some people think of a garbage truck, the visual image that comes to mind is of a bland-colored truck or an old, rusty roll-off, easing down the street. But this year's Design Contest winners have painted a prettier picture, one with flared designs and themed patterns.

All of the entries were noteworthy. But, the judges' decisions came down to which designs best depicted a company's overall message with clean, positive images.

Here are the winning designs and the hauling companies that inspired them. Waste Age hails the winners of its 23rd annual contest.

Best Overall Design

Trash Taxi
Troy, Mich.

“You don't see many big trucks dressed up these days,” says Curtis Agius, president and CEO of Trash Taxi. But paying a little more attention to how vehicles are viewed can pay-off.

Beginning as a humble roll-off company nearly two years ago, Agius says christening and naming each truck before it rolls out on the road has helped grow the Trash Taxi customer base to where the company now is a full-service hauler whose fleet of about 20 includes front loaders. “And we eventually plan to expand our business into landfills and transfer stations,” Agius adds.

Painted with that familiar yellow and black checkerboard design, Agius says the winning designs give residents pause. “We've gotten a lot of attention from our vehicles,” he says. “We've been in the news, on local TV, and we even traded places with a radio station for a day. They did our job, and we did theirs.”

Initially, the design was inspired by a video game called Crazy Taxi, Agius says. Mack, Allentown, Pa., trucks and McClain Industries, Sterling Heights, Mich., bodies and containers are used. Mack provides the yellow taxicab color, and Magic Graphics, Clinton Township, Mich., does most of the detailing. Then, taxicab lights are added on top. Friends help name the trucks — whoever submits the name that eventually is chosen wins a prize.

“It's like naming a child,” Agius says. And like the proud parent, he's ready to show off his newest baby. “We've got a new truck coming out that says ‘Got Trash?’ on it,” he says.

Best Front Loader

Tropical Trash Inc.
Hilton Head, S.C.

Hilton Head is famous for its beautiful beaches, lush golf courses and clean image. That's one reason Tropical Trash decided to spice up its vehicles — for the sake of its residents.

“We wanted to put out a message of cleanliness, and also something out of the ordinary,” says Gwen Dana, corporate secretary of Tropical Trash. “And the best part about the vehicles is that each driver talks with sign painters and has his vehicle personalized,” she adds.

Merrit Island, Fla.-based artists Sir James and Scotty Neon designed the tropical palm trees, sleek fire balls and lettering on the winning front loader, which features a Mack Truck with a McClain E-Z Pack body.

The company began using front loaders in spring 2000 and currently has one in operation, plus 11 other trucks to haul commercial waste from businesses and residential waste in areas such as trailer parks. Containers are made by Nu-Life Environmental Inc., Easley, S.C.

With its well-painted fleet, “residents can't believe this company is so clean,” Dana says.

Best Side Loader

City of North Miami Beach
Public Services Department
North Miami Beach, Fla.

Kelvin Baker, director of public services for the city of North Miami Beach, Fla., believes the city's two new side loaders are part of their continuing effort to bring a positive image to the solid waste profession.

“We consider ourselves leaders and tend not to wait for someone else to do it … we like to get out there and lead the way,” he says.

Although the truck has been in service for only a few months, Baker admits the residential collection vehicles are shaped awkwardly but actually are driver-friendly according to the drivers. “[The design helps by] appealing to folks as trucks pass by,” he adds.

The city has an in-house graphic designer that helped develop the artwork to give the Kingsford, Mich.-based Lodal Inc. trucks and Charlotte, N.C.-based Schaefer Systems International Inc. containers a clean, earthy feel, with green grass, blue skies, puffy clouds, a rising sun and breezy palm trees.

It's unusual “for solid waste haulers to promote positive messages on trucks [like the city's ‘Leading the Way’ message on its side loader],” Baker admits. “Normally, [garbage trucks are] more of an eyesore than anything else.”

But with each truck hauling trash to disposal sites, making about 900 stops per day, Baker says his city's eye-catching trucks are “a good marketing opportunity.”

Best Rear Loader

Martin County Solid Waste
Loogootee, Ind.

A few years ago, says Laura Albertson, director of the Martin County solid waste department, the company literally held a truck together with bandages because the county couldn't afford to pay for a new truck. Consequently, she applied for a recycling grant, hoping to get some funds from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

One stipulation of the grant, however, was ensuring that the truck not resemble a garbage truck. It had to look better, Albertson says. “So we had to get creative.”

To that end, Martin County's solid waste department got together, grabbed a book full of paint colors and employees voted on the vibrant color of the truck. Then, they gave input on how the truck should be decorated.

“We wanted to present an environmental image,” Albertson says. The department worked with a graphic designer and decided the rear loader needed to employ symbolism to communicate a message. The earth depicted in the illustration, she says, emerges from the cardboard box because the rear loader only picks up cardboard. The dragonfly symbolizes the protection of nature. The clouds represent the atmosphere, with black clouds broken up by lightning, also symbolizing nature and the earth.

After winning the grant, Signs Now, based in Jasper, Ind., followed through on the employees' ideas for the truck's design. And the rear loader from Sterling Trucks, Willoughby, Ohio, and Leach Co., Oshkosh, Wis., has since consistently picked up and hauled cardboard from three Indiana counties.

The county doesn't charge a cent to pick up cardboard, Albertson says. “We assist businesses with curbside pickup. They set it out, we pick it up and that's it. It saves costs.”

Best Roll-Off

Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Bob Wilson, sanitation supervisor for the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, says his roll-off “is quite popular rolling down the street.”

But, as it turns out, his roll-off received accolades from the moment it was introduced, beginning with a red carpet rollout by the city at a press conference in August 2000.

Wilson says the back of the Universal Handling Equipment Co., Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, container is patterned after the region's Douglas fir. The sides also are of the Douglas, in fuller form. Local artist Judith Atkinson, who currently is painting a mural on the side of one of the Board of Parks and Recreation's buildings, did the artwork.

According to Wilson, his decision to hire Atkinson was based on her ability to convey the message about preserving Stanley Park, the largest park system in Vancouver. The park houses more than 1,000 acres of virgin forest, with Douglas fir being the major attraction.

Best Container

Just Skips
Algester, Queensland, Australia

Originally, Just Skips' containers, made by Kingaroy Hydraulic Sales and Services, Brisbane, Australia, were just a blank canvas that served the needs of commercial and residential customers in the Brisbane area.

However, in Nov. 2000, Peter Monaghan, a former employee, suggested his owners get a little more creative.

Co-owners Alan Howell and Carol Hunt decided to flesh out the idea and hired Sonny Au, a self-taught artist from New Zealand, to use his imagination. The winning tiger and wolf motif is merely one of several dramatic designs that enlivens the company's containers.

According to Howell, Au has a unique talent for painting with an air gun and credits him with painting local billboards for movies such as Braveheart.

But now, a new advertising venue seems to be available. Local companies are expressing interest in advertising on Just Skips' containers, Hunt says. “It's slow to take off, but the potential is there.”