Credit: Heil Environmental

In automated refuse collection systems, an operator who never needs to exit the vehicle can run the truck.
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    Weighing the costs

A community's geographical characteristics, such as one-way streets, on-street parking, street width, alley collection, gated communities, cul-de-sacs, and mountainous terrain, will be important in determining productivity—i.e., how many homes can be collected in a day. Similarly, the proximity of the disposal site determines how much time must be spent off the route to unload. Both of these factors are also important in equipment selection. Equipment should be evaluated in terms of its productivity, maintenance costs, maneuverability, resale value, arm kick-out, overhead clearance, lift performance, and other factors. Various carts in different sizes from a range of manufacturers also should be examined.

To determine the costs of a new automated system, consider the following:

  • Number of refuse collection vehicles required, including back-ups
  • Number of workers per vehicle
  • Labor rate, including benefits
  • Upfront vehicle costs
  • Upfront container costs, including costs of distributing carts to customers
  • Interest rates for financing equipment acquisition
  • Annual projected maintenance costs
  • Vehicle productivity for each vehicle under consideration
  • Projected employee productivity: number of households collected per day, time spent on and off route, etc.
  • Projected workers' compensation claims
  • Projected insurance savings
  • Projected employee absentee rate (impacts overtime costs).
  • — David Baratti is vice president of sales and marketing for Heil Environmental, Chattanooga, Tenn.