Technology Helps Advance Collection Efficiency: Imperceptible to the Eye, Yet Major to the Industry

Tapering bodies and incorporating materials that help improve collection properties are only couple of examples of how manufacturers are improving on collection vehicle designs.

Noha Mandour

It’s common knowledge to anyone of us who work in the waste management industry in North America that, until quite recently, the average citizen didn’t give much thought to the technology behind the collection truck that rolled by every week in their neighborhood. In fact, they might have been surprised to know that collection vehicle manufacturers have been producing trucks that are slowly changing the way refuse is collected, measured and treated and that these vehicles occupy the first block in the starting lane of the fast-increasing race to become environmentally-friendly.

Tapered Bodies

Collection trucks do a lot more now than just get filled with trash, compact and dump their loads. What might seem minor design changes are actually major improvements which save millions of dollars for haulers. For example, before a tapered body design on automated side-loaders, truck bodies filled with compacted trash or other materials that didn’t properly unload at the landfill. The driver would have to maneuver his truck back and forth when unloading to try to get the contents to spill and hoist and lower the body a couple of times as well. Now, side-loaders all have a body that tapers at approximately1.5º on each side. This helps haulers save time, money and fuel by allowing the driver to hoist the body one time, dump his contents and take off that much quicker to collect another load, making it more efficient1.

The tapered body design has also been applied to split-body units. What’s a split-body? It’s a collection truck with a central wall in the hopper and body that creates two separate compartments in the truck body and makes it possible to collect two types of loads i.e. glass, paper and cardboard; trash and recycling etc. Unloading a split-body was even more difficult than a single compartment truck. With a tapered body—the problem is solved. Another advantage is that drivers, who previously wouldn’t collect their vehicle’s maximum capacity because of the difficulty with unloading, can now collect full payloads. Small design adjustments, that carry huge benefits for haulers.


Other design innovations appear even more considerable. Front-loaders, which were once known as the behemoths of solid waste collection, are now highly efficient collection trucks that come with options allowing haulers to weigh loads as they are picked up, identify customers, follow vehicles on the road and maximize payloads. Front-loaders are used mostly to collect commercial waste generated by retail stores, office buildings, industrial complexes and restaurants and, in many cases, residential areas populated with apartment buildings.

Commercial waste, according to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) represents approximately 40 percent of all municipal solid waste. A typical mix of material collected by front-loaders includes wood, plastic and rubber, steel, aluminum, sand, concrete and glass. All these are materials are highly abrasive and heavy, meaning that front-loaders are typically subject to much more wear and tear than other types of collection vehicles.

Even with the current trend to go green, the front-loader will always be needed to collect commercial waste and has to be manufactured to provide excellent wear resistance, have high impact toughness while keeping in mind the necessity for better legal payloads, homogeneous mechanical properties and fuel economy. It’s a truck that, in comparison with other vehicles, visits the maintenance shop more often, so it has to be more workshop friendly.2

To improve on front loaders, they are now manufactured almost entirely from Hardox® steel. Produced in Sweden, Hardox® is more wear resistant throughout the entire steel plate and significantly lighter than other types of plate steel. By doing this, it reduced the entire body weight allowing haulers to increase their legal payloads and save on fuel.3 The impact toughness of the steel used also means it is more durable and lasts almost twice as long as other steels. Using it has eliminated unsightly weld seams on the bodies which, after all, makes for a better looking vehicle.

Tapering bodies and incorporating materials that help improve collection properties are only a couple of examples of how manufacturers are improving on collection vehicle designs. There are many more options available to haulers who purchase these vehicles that rend them highly efficient and productive. What do manufacturers want to achieve by designing these types of trucks? To be greener, more efficient, smarter and safer.4

Noha Mandour is Corporate Communications Manager for Labrie Environmental Group (St Nicholas, QC). She joined the company in 2004 after almost 20 years in the public relations and marketing fields, working on a variety of regional and global projects while based in Dubai, UAE. Since joining Labrie, she has been involved in a number of initiatives, including brand strategy, corporate identity and promotional campaigns. She was nominated a finalist for the Wastec Employee of the Year award (Sales & Marketing) 2006. Noha can be reached at (800) 463-6638, ext. 6360, e-mail [email protected] or visit


  1. Labrie Environmental Group Engineer, Marc Nadeau, Product Manager for the company’s Labrie™ brand side-loader division.

  2. Pierre Lafond, Product Manager for Labrie Environmental Group’s Wittke™ front-loader division.

  3. Pierre Lafond.

  4. Marc Nadeau and Pierre Lafond.