With a Little Bit a' Paint

In a market glutted with options, waste haulers must compete for the public's attention. And what better way to help create a positive image for your operation than by designing an eye-catching truck or container?

Whether to assert a professional image or to elicit a smile from passers-by, the haulers featured in this year's Design Contest have taken the extra effort to create unique, eye-catching truck and container designs, and add a little pizzazz to the waste business.

For Waste Age's first Design Contest of the new millennium, competition was tight. Judges of this 22nd annual contest based their decisions on whether the designs depicted clean, positive images that did not detract from the company's overall business message.

The following contest winners have managed to set themselves apart from a distinguished group. Waste Age salutes these winners, who have added their personal touch to this colorful industry.

Best Overall Design Marine Salvage Pittsburgh More than 20 years ago, Herb Ritter, president of Marine Salvage, began commissioning graffiti artists to decorate his truck bodies. "There was no place in Pittsburgh for graffiti artists to paint, so I paid them and gave them a place to display their artwork," he says.

Today, all of Ritter's trucks, and at least 30 of his containers, are painted with everything from Pokemon cartoons to tie-dye designs. And customers have taken notice.

"We do a lot of residential collection, and the customer likes it," says Ritter, who's quick to add that not everyone understands his design choices. "If [the customers] aren't artsy, they think I'm nuts," he chuckles.

This year's winner in the Best Overall Design category features a pristine natural landscape spray painted on the side of a Durakan Co., Drifting, Pa., body, which is mounted on an International, Chicago, chassis.

"[Artist Matt Burfield] can spray anything you want," Ritter says. "He did a portrait on the side of one of the dumpsters." In fact, Ritter is so impressed with Burfield's artwork that today, he commissions Burfield exclusively.

As an added benefit to the art, Ritter explains that Burfield's creations prevent vandalism. "With [undecorated] boxes, people will spray them," Ritter says. "But with these painted ones, no one touches them."

Was Ritter surprised that his truck won? Not in the least. "I've been watching your magazine for awhile," he says, "and I knew [Burfield's artwork] would blow everything away."

Best Front Loader City of Santa Fe Solid Waste Division Santa Fe, N.M. The city of Santa Fe Solid Waste Division uses its truck design to reach out to its community.

"We support the Community Youth Mural Program," explains Jerry Monarski, equipment manager for the solid waste division. "The kids do murals all over the city."

Through the mural program, a professional artist selects local children to help him create images on trucks and buildings. Participants learn techniques such as shading and layout, while exploring serious issues concerning Santa Fe.

For example, "The truck that [Waste Age] chose [as a winner] depicts the message that [the city] wants to divert as much from the waste stream as possible," Monarski says. "It shows how much stuff we're just discarding in the landfills."

This winning entry is painted on a Crane Carrier Co., Tulsa, Okla., chassis outfitted with its integrated front loader (IFL) body. The solid waste division chose to paint this truck because the smooth and clean sides of the IFL body provided the perfect canvas for young, aspiring artists, Monarski says.

Since the Community Youth Mural program began in 1994, Santa Fe children have painted more than 172 surfaces around the city, says Mary Ragins, program coordinator. Projects are selected through a request for proposals (RFP).

Because the solid waste division has received such positive community responses to its truck designs, it plans to propose more youth mural projects in the future.

Community members are saying, "they've never seen any trucks like these," Monarski says.

Best Side Loader Lane Garbage/Apex Disposal Service Eugene, Ore. At Lane Garbage/Apex Disposal Service, a flair for design runs in the family. "My dad picked out the colors [for the winning entry] many years ago," says Sam Miller, co-owner. "It's a design that's evolved over the years."

Using a Leach Co., Oshkosh, Wis., body mounted on a Peterbilt, Denton, Texas, chassis as his canvas, Miller created the current design to portray a clean, professional image.

"We like to keep our trucks clean so they stand out," Miller says. "Most of the haulers in our area use darker colors."

When asked about community response to his trucks, Miller says that the design prompts interaction between community members and drivers. And for a father-son operation with a long history in Eugene, Ore., relationships such as these lay the foundation for longevity, he says.

"Customers come out and ask questions." Miller says. "It gives us a chance to strike-up conversations and promotes long-term communication."

Best Sweeper Kieger Enterprises Hugo, Minn. With 12 divisions offering everything from emergency response to snow removal, Kieger Enterprises had its hands full choosing a design for its Schwartze Industries, Huntsville, Ala./GM Corp., Detroit, sweeper fleet. The design had to complement Kieger's overall color scheme, yet set the sweepers apart from the other fleets.

Luckily, Sweeping Supervisor Bob Huberty, known affectionately as Dr. Bob, came to the rescue. "Dr. Bob loves purple so much he painted his cell phone purple. He also owns purple clothes, purple shoes, a purple cape and even a purple hearse," says Pat Iwan, company general manager.

That explains the purple, but what about the flames?

"The flames attract attention," Iwan says. "We're set apart from the competition." The painted flames also can be seen on Kieger's entire fleet. "We even have flames on one of our sewer cleaners," Iwan says.

Community members have responded positively to the truck, Iwan says. "Customers from other divisions call us and comment on [the design]. We get at least one good comment per day. Employees love it, too."

The design also illustrates the company's philosophy. "Having fun is about as important to us as making money," Iwan says. "Can you tell that if we're not having fun, it's time to stop doing the work?"

Best Recycling Vehicle Knoxville Recycling Coalition Knoxville, Tenn. When the Knoxville Recycling Coalition truck needed a new paint job, this nonprofit organization decided to have some fun. "We thought it would be fun to make [the truck] a little bit different," says Karen Anderson, executive director. "So we painted it purple and made the hopper look like a monster mouth. We wanted to generate enthusiasm."

Certainly, the coalition's design generated enthusiasm among Waste Age's design contest judges. But how does the community react?

"We've had people call and say they've seen our truck, and they want to know more about our program," Anderson says about the Dempster Co., Toccoa, Ga./Freightliner, Portland, Ore., Purple Paper Eater. "We've also taken [the truck] to Earth Day and America Recycles Day celebrations and have received a lot of response there."

Generating such response is important for an organization funded primarily through its 10-year-old office paper recycling program, says Anderson, noting that every question represents an opportunity for the coalition to promote and expand its programs. Also, because the Coalition only owns one truck, the Purple Paper Eater is responsible for representing the organization's public image.

Anderson created the design herself and commissioned a graphics person to complete the layout.

"We wanted to make it look simple," she says.

Best Roll-Off City of North Miami Beach Public Services Department North Miami Beach, Fla. When deciding how to paint its fleet of Chagnon, Montreal, tilt frames with Hesco, Miami, roll-offs mouned on Volvo, Greensboro, N.C., chassis, the city of North Miami Beach Public Services Department considered its customers first.

"We feel that it's important to promote what you do best, so we put a lot of emphasis on public relations and getting information out to the community," Director Kelvin Baker explains. "The country as a whole has a negative impression of trash trucks. They want to get their trash off the street, but they hate to see the trucks."

Determined to change its customers' minds about garbage trucks, the city has included local symbols that elicit pride in residents - into its design. "We're showing the native tree, as well as our city name," Baker says. "The design shows that we are in South Florida."

The city also has installed a fully automated truck-washing facility to depict a clean image. "That's the message we promote, even outside of our city at the landfill," Baker says. "When you come to our city, you'll find a clean city. People looking out their windows will get that same message."

Baker hopes this message will reach beyond North Miami Beach and Florida. The face of the solid waste industry is changing, he says, and truck designs must change with it.

"Solid waste has come a long way over the years," Baker adds. "Many years ago, all you talked about was dumping trash into the landfill. Now, chemists and attorneys are involved. It's become a very professional field."

Best Rear Loader Lilac Sunrise Disposal Baileyville, Maine Waste Age judges are not the first to honor the Lilac Sunrise truck with a design award. In 1995, McNeilus Co., Dodge Center, Minn., manufacturer of Lilac Sunrise Disposal's rear loader body, featured the truck in its company calendar. Mounted on an International, Chicago chassis, Lilac's rear loader has been causing a stir ever since.

When Lilac first purchased this rear loader, McNeilus already had painted the white and blue background. Lilac then hired someone to design a clean, appealing image for the company. Today, Lilac owns 10 rear loaders with the same design.

"[Community] feedback has been excellent," says Lilac's owner, Fred Rayner. "[Customers] say it's the nicest looking garbage truck they've ever seen. They can't believe how good it looks."

Best Container Town & Country Disposal Erie, Colo. The refreshing optimism of children's artwork displayed on this Wastequip, Beachwood, Ohio, container caught the attention of Waste Age judges. Town and Country Disposal hopes this design will catch the attention of Boulder County, Colo., residents, too.

"We're a small hauler by today's standards," says Jeffery Debruyne, the company's controller. "We try to portray high-quality customer service at a decent price, and we offer as many services to the community as we can."

For Town and Country, these services extend beyond trash and recycling collection to community activism. Together with an organization called YES, which works with 12- and 13-year-old children, Town & Country provided a clean slate for young artists.

To determine who gets to paint, the YES children submitted design ideas to a committee of adult supervisors. Once the committee approved the ideas, local artists were assigned to guide groups of children through the mural painting process.

Everybody thinks the painting project is a great idea, Debruyne says, adding that the children's project discourages vandalism by providing a city-approved location for young adults' artwork.

"Every so often we get dumpsters that are painted without our permission, so if these kids can do something in a more positive, supervised manner; it helps keep them out of trouble," Debruyne says. Consequently, Town and Country plans to continue its relationship with YES in the future.