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Web Exclusive - March 2016

Dealing With Off-Road Trash Receptacles

By Douglas Glenn Clark


Specialized trash trucks operated by a single employee now dominate the waste removal industry for obvious reasons. These uniquely designed machines can empty more than 400 barrels per day in large public areas, and save big bucks by repositioning the workforce and eliminating injuries. The benefits are so satisfying that city leaders are now using the same strategy for inland parks, hiking trails and sports facilities.

Vast public areas like parks and athletic fields have long been the bane of many sanitation departments. Sprawling acreage gives visitors plenty of space to recreate but also becomes a high-volume dumping ground that is difficult to service efficiently. Add lengthy hiking trails to the mix and municipalities face a common dilemma: Clean up the mess fast while staying within a budget—or expect complaints.

Michael Schaber, parks and forestry operations manager for the city of Rochester, Minn., knows the drill all too well. His crew must remove trash from 107 parks that total about 3,000 acres. The environments include hiking trails and sports complexes.

"In the past we'd send out a couple guys in pickup trucks with a dumpster attached to the rear. They'd have to get out of the truck, lift and empty the trash barrel, and then get back in the truck. It took forever," he said.

Now he sends out one man who easily finishes the complex task within two eight-hour working days—even in winter when the vehicles must traverse through deep snow.

The "eureka" moment happened while he was enjoying a vacation in the Miami area. He marveled at the vehicles that emptied the trash receptacles on the beaches. Coincidentally, his supervisor enjoyed some rest time in the same location weeks later, and he too took note of the single-operator vehicles.

Schaber's research lead to Boyhill, a Nebraska-based company that had provided Load-and-Pack machinery for the city of St. Paul. The vehicle is fitted with special tires that defy snow, soft sand and mud, while boasting a four-wheel drive capability and a hydraulic front-lifting arm that grabs, hoists and empties containers up to 90 gallons and 500 pounds; the cycle per container only lasts about five seconds.

"It didn't take long to convince us. And it was easy to win approval because we'd save money by reducing paid time and avoiding employee injuries," he said.

Smaller Workforce

Charles V. Loftis, director of the Sand Beach Department in Harrison County, Miss., said maintaining 26 miles of manmade beach used to require eight employees on a daily basis. The work was so physically demanding that the county relied on inmates, jail trustees, to help with the exhausting, time-consuming chores. In those days, all the trash receptacles were lifted manually and emptied into a trailer pulled by a tractor.

"We'd pick up the trash seven days a week. It took so long to do the job that it wasn't an economical way of doing things. And we couldn't do the work in bad weather," he said, adding that residents never filed complaints about inmates. Yet their presence seemed inappropriate in a vacation setting, and general fear of crime made some families uncomfortable.

Since purchasing several Load-and-Pack vehicles over the past 15 years, the county has reduced its workforce to two. One vehicle can empty more than 500 55-gallon drums per day. And drivers can work at ease even during inclement weather.

Chad Hudson, park supervisor in Myrtle Beach, S.C., has also reduced his workforce. In the busy season a single operator empties 500 barrels a day over 10 miles of beach.

"We used to need four or five people to get it done on time," he said.

Reduce Workers' Comp

Some department heads say a catastrophic back injury could cost the city anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000—and that's just one claim.

According to Loftis, back and shoulder strain injuries were common years ago, and for obvious reasons: Supervisors and county workers had to lift heavy garbage bags out of barrels, an awkward and physically demanding repetitive motion.

"We've saved a lot on workers' comp because nobody gets hurt. These vehicles designed to avoid injury. Add that to the time we save during pickup, and the Broyhill Load-and-Pack works perfect for us," he said.

Hudson concurred. "It's a no-brainer. When you reduce the need for strenuous activities for employees you eliminate the chance that someone might get hurt."

The single-operator vehicle has helped keep Schaber's workers on the job. "We'd have people handle trash baskets thinking they were just filled with paper, but actually contained cement. They'd throw out their back on the lift and could be gone for weeks."

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