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.
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."
Speedy Trash Pickup
Investing in specialized equipment guarantees faster pickup—even when more trash receptacles are used on beaches and other areas.
Bill Schupp, owner of Schupp Enterprises, contracts with Isle of Palms, S.C., to pick up trash. He's basically a one-man band, so speed and efficiency are essential when emptying 250 cans on seven miles of beach.
"If I hadn't found this type of vehicle I wouldn't be in the trash business," said the former educator who created his business after retirement. "It's fun. I see a lot of sunrises and I never have to touch the garbage."
Cleaner Parks, Trails and Beaches
Overflow and trash spills are normal when too few receptacles are available in public areas. The messy, unsightly problem is solved by placing more trash containers on any given route, a choice that was unimaginable when the work was done manually.
Schaber used to resist when a resident would ask the city to add extra trash barrels. It was too time-consuming to maintain. Now he usually obliges.
Ideal for Large Properties
Finally, the specialized off-road vehicles are ideal for expansive properties with long distances to traverse. Schaber said his vehicle can travel any terrain quickly and yet not do damage to delicate hiking trails or the grass in Rochester's soccer and baseball fields.
And thanks to the size of the compacted collection box, the driver only needs to unload his haul once—at the end of the day—while sitting in a cab with heat and air-conditioning.
Some one-man refuse collection vehicles offer collection boxes in sizes as large as 7 and even 9.5 cubic yards, with a trash compact ratio of 4:1 that provides storage of 28 and 38 cubic yards.
Vehicles like the Load and Pack not only reduce pollution in beaches, parks and sports arena environments, they are also safe to operate in populated areas because many are equipped with three-way cameras that provide the operator with clear side and rear views. Another feature that decreases chances of collision is the ability to turn and move to the next trash receptacle without needing to back up.
"It gives the operator a sense of security knowing nobody is behind you," Hudson said.
Schupp discovered the Load-and-Pack when he heard about its success in Myrtle Beach. He was confident his agreement with Isle of Palms would cover the investment.
"I had a long enough contract. I knew the vehicle would pay for itself," he said, noting that the typical return on investment is about 2.5 years.
The second pre-owned vehicle Schupp purchased was a refurbished model offered by the manufacturer. For municipalities that wish to sell older equipment, Broyhill will pay top dollar to buy back its vehicles so that it can ensure quality control during the refurbishment.
Loftis said maintenance of the Load-and-Pack is routine, despite harsh conditions and constantly running in sand and salt air. A two-part urethane paint that is resistant to chemicals and salt water is used on all vehicles.
Best of all, Schupp said the vehicles delight beachcombers, kids and adults alike.
"It's the highlight of their day. The truck looks like a rolling city with all its safety lights, painted bright yellow with a white dumpster on the back. Everybody knows who I am and they know the machines."
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