Electronics in the Waste Industry

By Andrea Davis on April 25, 2019

By Guest Blogger Neil Parsons

Neil installing a camera system in a Granger pickup

Let’s talk T.R.A.S.H. That’s “Technology Rewards A Smart Hauler.” Americans throw away around 250 million tons of trash a year; that’s 4.4 pounds for every person, day in and day out. Collecting all that waste has evolved from paper route sheets and two-way radios to in-truck tablets with GPS, smart phones and safety cameras.

I have been with Granger for 17 years, and as technology analyst, it’s my job to look after and help support the technology that lives inside our garbage trucks and landfill equipment and keeps them up and running, along with the safety cameras that help our associates be as efficient and safe as possible.

Truck Tablets

All Granger garbage trucks have electronic routing that allows near real-time communication of the status of a route, including how many stops have been picked up, who has not put their trash out, work orders for delivery and pickup of large temporary containers and the ability to capture images of trash volume at any individual customer’s container. I test and set up these devices, making sure they are secure and powered through the day.

Programming phones and tablets

Truck Smart Phones

Along with tablets, every Granger garbage truck has a smart phone. These are used primarily to communicate with supervisors, should the occasion arise, but also are used to track driver hours and jobs through smart apps. (Phones are used either when a vehicle is safely parked or by a non-driving associate riding in the truck. Associates are instructed that phones should not be used while driving, either to make or answer calls, text or use other applications.)

That’s more than 350 devices to maintain and set up. If you remember buying a new phone and how long it takes to set up, you can imagine the time it takes to manage those 350.

Safety Cameras

Most Granger equipment, both on and off road, used in the landfill or out on the road, has a multi-camera DVR device recording all information in a 360-degree bubble around the vehicle. It’s my job to oversee the installation of the cameras and to troubleshoot issues if they arise. That’s a whopping 650 cameras that record all day. These cameras help drivers see materials being loaded into their vehicles and minimize blind spots around the vehicle. They allow heavy equipment operators to monitor landfill traffic near them for safer operation. Supervisors can also use footage for coaching and training purposes, creating high safety standards for the fleet.

Side camera on garbage truck

 

Truck Engine Diagnostic Software

Just as the equipment inside the cab has gone tech heavy, so have the engines and transmissions of our vehicles. Every division has up to three diagnostic laptops that help troubleshoot issues with the vehicles. It’s my job to maintain these devices with software from vendors like Mack, Cummins, Caterpillar and Detroit Diesel. Without these devices, diagnosing problems such as exhaust after treatment issues would be much more time-consuming and expensive.

GPS

Global positioning systems help our landfill crew compact all that collected trash in the most efficient way possible, which is necessary, particularly when you’re using more than 400 gallons of fuel a day to run that landfill equipment. I help set up and maintain this equipment, which allows equipment operators to see areas that need further compaction and those that have been compacted enough. Additionally, this data can be viewed by office staff using a web-based system. They can then use this information to do long-term planning and complete required reporting for the landfill.

This view shows what the landfill equipment operator sees in the cab of the trash compacting machine. The left side is color-coded according to compaction status. The red areas are those that still need further compacting. In the green areas, no further compacting is necessary. On the right side top, the trash machine is shown with a brown area underneath (indicating where trash is located). On the right side bottom, the 2.3 indicates how much vertical air space there is left to fill.

GIS

Geographic information systems are the science of “where.” The amount of data our garbage trucks produce is astonishing. We generate more than one million waypoints a week with the GPS systems in the trucks. This kind of data can be converted and placed as points on a map to show supervisors roads travelled, speeds recorded and potential areas for marketing. My passion is mapping; I love being able to visually represent the areas we are in and help our customer service teams be as accurate and efficient as possible, along with providing management of visual data to help with business-critical decisions.

Map of a Granger service area showing service locations as red dots

Technology is great when it works! That’s why I love my job. Every day there is a new kind of technical challenge to overcome or data to visually display. The good days are good; the bad can be frustrating, but when you have the great associates that I work with behind you, it helps a lot. I always strive to do my best to make sure things run smoothly. That’s the Granger Way!