Waste hauling companies are trying to change how their fleets operate, and those efforts are also affecting how waste trucks are being designed and built.

“The broader trends are toward developing more automated, flexible, and multi-tasking trucks,” said Toby Harris, manager of marketing services for Chattanooga, TN-based waste truck body maker Heil Environmental Industries.

Harris told Fleet Owner that waste truck fleets are trying to make their vehicles as automated as possible.

“Designing trucks with automated arms to pick up and empty garbage cans improves worker safety, can reduce workman’s compensation claims, and can help reduce the size of the crew needed to operate the vehicle, freeing up people for other tasks,” he said.

Even though the additional moving parts for such automated systems can increase vehicle maintenance costs, the savings gained from reduced crew size alone more than offsets that expense, he noted.

Harris also said many fleets are designing vehicles to perform more than one task, such as trucks that can pick up trash in residential areas as well as unload commercial dumpsters. Split bodies, which handle regular garbage in one side and recyclable material in the other, or two kinds of recyclables, are also on the rise, he added.