SEATTLE (Waste Advantage): Safety is an important consideration for those in the refuse and recycling industry. Therefore, risk mitigation strategies and safety technology advancements are extremely important. In recent years, innovative technologies introduced by manufacturers of heavy-duty refuse trucks have made many safety benefits available to operators. As an added bonus, many of these safety-enhancing technologies also aim to help a fleet’s productivity and efficiency.
Refuse and waste fleet managers want their haulers and crews to be as safe as possible and serve their community effectively. Garbage truck manufacturers play an important role in meeting that goal. Historically, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have focused on manufacturing trucks with features that prioritize this goal by including physical safety options like anti-slip steps, improved visibility, and better ergonomics. However, OEMs have incorporated various smart technologies into their refuse truck chassis in the past few years. These smart technologies can alert and provide warnings to operators and fleet managers in real-time.
Today, operators spend more time inside refuse trucks than ever before, thanks to the increased adoption of the automated side loader (ASL) truck. ASLs allow the operator to remain entirely inside the truck. In turn, they increase worker safety by decreasing exposure to oncoming traffic and waste. However, the adoption of these trucks requires refuse collection operators to engage more with technology in addition to driving. These technologies can include actuator controls, onboard computers (OBC) and communication devices. This can, unfortunately, distract an operator.
Though side loaders have become more commonplace and have helped to mitigate some of the dangers associated with waste collection, OEMs have identified the need for continued improvement. Autocar is one manufacturer that has recognized this need and is using technological advancements to make further progress in refuse safety.
The Issue with Current Risk Mitigation Tactics
While OSHA does not have industry-specific recommendations, SWANA and the American National Standards Institute have published safety procedures. These include safety protocols for both operators and the waste collection vehicle, which range from personal protective equipment and anti-distraction advice to features OEMs must include on the refuse trucks they manufacture, such as controls and higher visibility mirrors. OEMs have also implemented risk mitigation strategies, like slip-resistant riding steps, grab handles and warning signs and sounds.
Additionally, most waste management companies and owners have rigorous training requirements and proprietary internal risk mitigation strategies. Fleets have removed driver distractions such as restricting cellphone usage inside of the cab, installing monitored telematics systems, and enforcing breaks for operators.