Gilbert goes high-tech with garbage trucks - East Valley Tribune: News

Gilbert goes high-tech with garbage trucks

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Posted: Thursday, September 17, 2009 7:52 pm | Updated: 2:13 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Gilbert has some smart garbage trucks. Each of the solid waste department's 55 collection vehicles is equipped with software that can monitor not only where they're located in the fast-growing town, but also how fast they're going, when they need an oil change and how much money they burn while idling.

Gilbert has some smart garbage trucks.

Each of the solid waste department's 55 collection vehicles is equipped with software that can monitor not only where they're located in the fast-growing town, but also how fast they're going, when they need an oil change and how much money they burn while idling.

The town's public works department has set a five-minute idling limit on its trash trucks, solid waste field supervisor Jaimie Perkins said. When someone isn't abiding by that rule, "we can give them a printout that says not only are you not supposed to do this, this is how much it costs," he said.

The software from Seattle-based Zonar Systems can be used to help callers verify whether the truck has stopped at their home or business, and if a pickup needs to be done on short notice, the nearest truck can be routed there. It also stores maintenance records.

In most cases, the town will send a truck back to a residence when someone calls to say that their trash was not picked up, but the GPS data can be used to verify whether the trucks have been skipping a location if there are repeated calls about missed service.

Sometimes the issue is a matter of timing. "If it's there, we'll service it," Perkins said. "We want to be as efficient as we can, but residents have to do their part."

The number of calls the town gets on bulk-trash collection days has gone down significantly, from 35 a day two or three years ago to an average of four in recent months, which Perkins said is a side benefit of the GPS as well as better training and lower driver turnover.

The town began installing the GPS systems in 2005, town spokeswoman Beth Lucas said. Outfitting the entire waste collection fleet cost $38,390, and there is a monthly GPS subscription fee of $18 per month per truck.

Following the success of the GPS installations on the garbage trucks, Gilbert installed the Zonar systems on its seven street sweepers.

Other East Valley cities and trash collectors vary in the degree to which they use GPS to get their service vehicles through town. Chandler contracts its trash collection services out, but the city does have GPS trackers on the town's 10 street sweepers, city spokesman Jim Phipps said. They help verify which streets have and haven't been cleaned and can monitor routes run at night when there isn't a supervisor on duty,

Waste Management, which has business and residential accounts throughout the East Valley and handles all of Chandler's residential solid waste service, has mapping software systems installed on trucks that pick up rolloff containers for commercial service, but not on those serving residential routes.

"We pretty much know what those trucks are doing, whereas the other trucks have routes that vary," said Melissa Quillard, Waste Management spokeswoman. The drivers' walkie-talkies also have GPS capability, she said.

Mesa has tried GPS on their garbage truck fleets twice in recent years but has yet to find a system that gives city staffers the information they need. Spokesman Mariano Reyes said the solid waste department wants to have the technology on their trucks but hasn't had much luck with it so far.

"One of the systems we were piloting would sometimes say that our trucks were in Idaho," he said.

Perkins said hiccups on the Zonar system are very rare, but shortly after it was rolled out, his boss told him Perkins had allegedly taken a side trip to the Canadian province of Quebec.

"I told him I was in the mood for some French food," Perkins joked.

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