The refuse industry is much more competitive today,” says Paul Ruthenberg, president of Midwestern Sanitation. “Diesel and insurance costs continue to be very, very difficult to manage. But at the heart of it, we know we have to increase vehicle efficiency and economics so we can better serve our customers.”

The Inkster-MI-based vocational fleet fields 45 vehicles serving 30,000 residences and some retailers in 10 cities across central Michigan.

“We tried to allocate five of our trucks to one community, but were never able to field all five at the same time due to various mechanical issues,” says Ruthenberg “With one or more trucks in the shop at any given time, our productivity suffered.”

Late last year Midwestern bought five Sterling L-Line trucks powered by Cat C12s and dedicated them to operate in Taylor, MI. The trucks' tighter turning radius and maneuverability helped shave three hours a day off route time.

Ruthenberg also changed the graphics used for the new trucks to generate a more positive image. The new graphics promote various services, including recycling, hazmat disposal and composting. He notes changing the public perception of refuse trucks is a key part of his fleet strategy for 2005.

That strategy entails adding five or six new trucks a year to reequip Midwestern with equipment that is more efficient and presents a more positive image.

“We don't think of them as refuse trucks; we like to call them ecological purveyors of the future,” he says. “Normally, the only calls we get are from customers with questions or problems. But our new truck graphics generated calls praising the new look of the trucks.”

And as he sees it, that's money in the bank. “Now the refuse packer has become more that just a business tool — it's also an attractive billboard for our company. It's a sales tool that should help us sustain and grow our business in the coming year.”