On-board garbage truck scales are changing how haulers and their customers manage waste.
By Charles Schmidt
Competitive pressures, dumpster overloading and differences in material density are pushing today’s waste haulers to evaluate customer tracking with hard data on every lift. Accurate business data creates opportunities to streamline operations, improve profit and create competitive advantage by feeding back waste production data to help customers reduce their waste stream. To take advantage of the availability of this data, waste haulers are investing in tools like on-board scales to improve transparency, traceability and profitability of each customer.
The key to monitoring accurate payload-per-dumpster, measured at the first touch point, is an on-board weighing system. Waste haulers with on-board scales have reported improved per-customer profitability by up to 15 percent. This increase in profitability is enabled by accurately tracking how much each customer actually discards, and ensuring each contract accurately reflects the weight, not volume, of trash in each dumpster, every pickup.
A variety of factors are driving increased use of technology for real-time data in waste management, including a growing focus on environmental issues and increased expectations around transparency and traceability. At the same time, what used to be a simple calculation for charging customers for collection based on waste volume has evolved. The traditional pricing model, where a waste hauler quotes a price based on dumpster size, how often the dumpster is emptied and waste type, is being surpassed by more technologically advanced methods that provide greater accuracy. Because of the disconnect between how haulers charge (fixed volume) and their cost basis (per ton for disposal), even a small miscalculation means lost profits for haulers.
Looking for a Better Way—On-Board Weighing
Given these changing attitudes and priorities, on-board weighing is attracting significant attention from waste haulers and their corporate customers. The technology gives haulers the ability to know the profitability of each customer, as well as provide data to customers to inform their waste minimization efforts.
On-board scale systems record the weight of material in each dumpster, allowing haulers to provide accurate weights to customers directly. The in-cab display shows weight data calculated using load and position sensors. During the normal lifting cycle, the operator sees the dumpster payload, and whether the dumpster is overloaded and potentially unsafe. The system automatically adds each dumpster’s weight to a running total and informs the operator when to return before the vehicle is overloaded. This all happens as part of the normal loading/pickup process—payload is calculated automatically and visible to the operator with no delay.
Many haulers believe increased, real-time visibility into payload and weights is significant because it can help waste collectors operate more efficiently. Not only that, but after the payload is calculated, the total can be connected to the customer account via existing dispatch software, or third-party routing platform. With these systems, no paperwork is required by the operator and if a customer requires a ticket, the operator can print directly from the cab.
More Transparency Improves Hauler Profitability
Onboard scales also help make waste collection and disposal processes more productive, safer and provide waste haulers greater visibility into customer waste services. Now, haulers can clearly see which customers are profitable and where they may be losing money. More data and reporting options also help haulers improve safety and route efficiency by ensuring trucks are optimally loaded. Haulers can also quickly see individual dumpster weights with time and date stamps and track customers quickly by customer I.D., number, dumpster size and other metrics.
Some on-board scale systems measure the net weight of the dumpster as it is emptied and integrates that information into the route management system. Measuring payload this way helps waste collection companies improve safety dramatically because there is no chance of overloading trucks and incurring fines. This also gives haulers a complete record of each individual customer’s activity, allowing them to evaluate profitability. Further, optimal truck loading helps reduce trips to the landfill and eliminate the risk of overload penalties.
At the same time, many commercial customers like it because they can see a complete picture of the waste they are generating, and the difference their efforts to reduce their waste stream are producing.
Selecting a System
Although making a move to on-board scale systems may seem intimidating to waste haulers who have not used them in the past, implementation and use of the technology should be easy for both owners and operators. Systems can be installed on most makes and models of trucks, and a good dealer partner can help with selecting and installing the right technology.
When shopping for the right technology, be sure to ask about accuracy. Because even small inaccuracies can add up to lost profits, seek out a solution that is accurate to within plus or minus two percent margin of error.
Look for onboard systems that provide an in-cab interface that is easy to read, use and understand. In order to prevent distractions, screen displays should be uncluttered and relay only the pertinent information to the operator at the right time.
ROI for All
Waste reduction, specifically food waste management, is getting more attention, as efforts to mitigate this part of the waste stream have been slow to progress. Anything less than real-time feedback is inaccurate and prevents customers from making immediate changes to their operations. Haulers that help customers reduce waste can build stronger partnerships with them and make it less likely they’ll be lured by competitors. For commercial customers, this can mean an improved bottom line, positive PR and environmental benefits.
Driving the Industry Forward
Like many industries, data is driving the waste management industry forward. Technology has evolved to where weight data is now readily available and provides a better basis for how to operate. From responding to daily operating requirements to the larger perspective around reducing the environmental footprint of landfills, weighing is the future. There are many benefits to be seen by haulers who get on board with on-board weighing. | WA
Charles Schmidt is Business Development Manager for the waste and municipal sectors at Trimble (Sunnyvale, CA), a leading provider of scales and payload management solutions. He can be reached at Charles_Schmidt@Trimble.com.