The World of Refuse

November 14, 2016
Whitney VanKlaveren

Featured in Muncie Power Quarterly, Issue 4, 2016

By Sal Knieriem

Growing up in Los Angeles County, residents like myself were subject to many changes in the refuse market. Front loaders – mainly used for residential collection over the last few decades – are just one example, as today front loaders have been replaced for residential collection by more advanced trucks.

These once common front loaders had a huge can on the front of the truck, which trash collectors would manually dump the trash into from the cans at your home. This trash would then be dumped from the truck’s can into the hopper.

Back then we dumped everything we could into our trash cans – trash from our homes, cans, aluminum, glass and grass clippings.

Today we have three trucks – one for dumping trash, one for recycled goods and one for grass clippings, etc. These trucks have one thing in common; they are all automated side loaders.

Thanks to the automated side loader, trash collectors no longer have to get out of the cab. With advanced technology, the driver can simply and efficiently operate the arm of the side loader with a touch screen monitor.

The automated side loader’s retractable arm, usually located on the right side (curb side) of the truck, the driver controls using a button to extend, close, lift and dump the load into the hopper. Once completed, the arm returns the can to where it was when the truck pulled up – 10 to 12 seconds ago.

An automated side loader’s system uses proportional valves, load sense valves, proximity switches and vane and proportional piston pumps. These systems are now operating at 3,000 to 5,000 PSI and its cycle times faster, enabling the truck to pick up more trash in one day.

While there are many advantages to the automated side loader, users should be mindful of preventive maintenance, pressure settings, cost and leaving the PTO in gear.

Preventive maintenance is key to ensuring the life of the hydraulic system. This includes replacing filters in a timely manner, and hoses when a leak or drip from the fittings occur.

Another tip – making sure pressures are accurately set. If not, hoses can burst within the hydraulic system – most often the pressure line; although, suction and return lines can as well.

The latest in technology also comes with a higher price tag. While this added cost is minimal compared to the benefits, it is still something to be considered.

Although some customers build trucks with load sense valves, load sense pumps, Wi-Fi, input/output and touch-screen communications today, there are still customers who build trucks the old-school, less expensive way with bang bang valves, pneumatic controls and pneumatic hand controllers.

And even as automation has helped alleviate a once common mistake in refuse applications, drivers should still be wary of leaving the PTO in gear – burning up the clutch pack.

Automated side loaders have already changed the game within the refuse market, making trash collection more efficient. The automated side loader is a great option, but like with all things has to be maintained. As customers build upon these systems, we anticipate the refuse market will only continue to change.