Care of fleet equipment crucial to solid-waste/recycling operations

Whether engaged in collecting residential trash or recyclable items curbside, or in hauling containers of solid waste or bulk recyclables, cartage fleets depend as heavily on their equipment as any trucking operation.

A case in point is Jet-A-Way Inc., a Roxbury, Mass.-based solid-waste removal and recycling firm that's celebrating its 30th year serving the greater Boston area.

Founded by president Darlene Jeter and her late husband, Eddie, with one used truck, the company is now a $10-million-plus business with its own waste-transfer station, paper-sorting facility, and fleet of 14 trucks and 20 trailers.

According to executive-vp John Kelso, Jet-A-Way focuses on two areas of expertise as it continues building on its successful track record.

"We specialize in hauling construction and demolition (C&D) debris and in handling commercial-grade paper for recycling," Kelso relates.

Fleet power consists of 10 roll-off and 4 packer trucks. Jet-A-Way's 20 trailers are used to collect C&D debris as well as to haul it to recycling facilities or disposal sites. The packer trucks service commercial rubbish and paper-recycling accounts.

Jet-A-Way owns and services all its vehicles in its own shop, which employs 12 mechanics on two shifts.

While the day shift stands ready to complete emergency repairs, the night shift performs most routine preventive maintenance.

Kelso reports that the fleet's duty cycle generally resembles the spoke of a wheel. "A roll-off unit will go pick up a container, empty it at our transfer station, and then head out again for another pickup."

He points out that Jet-A-Way's trucks don't incur the high frequency of stops typical refuse trucks do, so brakes tend to last longer.

On the other hand, tire costs remain the "biggest issue" in managing equipment maintenance. "The construction sites and disposal facilities our trucks drive through are treacherous to tires," Kelso states.

"To help keep tire costs down," he continues, "we employ a full-timer who monitors tire pressure and wear conditions. Tire wear is monitored vehicle by vehicle, and if necessary, we can trace conditions back to individual drivers using the computer."

On the other end of the waste-industry scale from the family-owned concerns like Jet-A-Way are the mega-firms like BFI and Waste Management. As it so happens, these and other trash titans have grown largely by buying up smaller solid-waste operations.

LNG Trucks Such is the case with Houston-based Waste Management and the former William H. Martin/Chamber Development operation it acquired recently.

Now part and parcel of Waste Management, the Washington, Pa.-based business specializes in hauling municipal waste. It also owns and operates the local landfill.

The fleet serving Washington, which sits astride the intersection of Interstates 70 and 79 southwest of Pittsburgh, numbers 12 front-load, 72 rear-load, 28 roll-off, and 16 compartmentalized recycling trucks.

Seven of the rear-loaders, all in residential service, are Macks powered by the OEM's LNG-fueled E7 engines.

Those LNG trucks came into the fleet as part of a government-industry pilot program that was launched before Waste Management came onto the scene.

According to Waste Management district manager Ben Woods Jr., who was on board when the project kicked off several years back, results so far are running well ahead of expectations.

"We've gotten more than we expected from the program," Woods states. "For starters, drivers really like the trucks. They enjoy working without diesel fumes and find the LNG units are quieter, too.

"Meanwhile, " he continues, "we've seen no slowdown in productivity in terms of on-route productivity from using the different fuel. In addition, the LNG units can cover enough distance without refueling to complete their routes as well as our diesel units."

Woods says there has been one pitfall the fleet hopes to surpass soon. "The biggest stumbling block has been the cost of transporting the liquefied fuel here. That actually runs higher than the cost of the LNG itself."

However, he points that part of the original thinking behind the project was to see if a local fuel source could be generated by tapping the methane produced by the landfill.

"We now feel we'll gain the technology to clean the methane properly for combustion and liquefy it on site within the next three years or so."