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Solid Waste Routing – Improving Efficiency in Solid Waste Collection Part 2

Analyzing Current Operations

It is safe to assume that if you are reading this then you already believe you have room for improvement in your collection operations. There are a couple of ways that can test the efficiency of solid waste routes.

For a troublesome route, try putting one of your better drivers on that route for a couple of weeks. If the better driver takes just as long as the regular driver then the problem is likely the route and not the driver. Bear in mind that your “better” driver will most likely always get done faster.

There are some industry “thumb rule” counts for stops per route. As “thumb rules” they will not pertain to every area. For example, very rural areas will require more driving and therefore collect at fewer stops. For automated collection, the maximum number of stops per route is 1,000 stops per 8-hour day, and 1,200 and for Semi-Automated (with one helper) it is 800 stops per 8-hour day and 1,000 per 10-hour day. So, in a dense city area where automated routes collect 600 stops in an 8-hour day, there is room for improvement.


A Driver’s View:

“When I started driving a garbage truck, I was trained by the driver that was running the route. He was taught by the driver before him and I taught my replacement. That is probably the start of the problem. I ran my route like the driver before me and my replacement ran my route just like I did. That didn’t mean that the route was being run in the most efficient manner.

There were plenty of times that I wondered if there were a faster or better way to run the route but we were always just trying to finish the route on time. With overtime being taboo and already working a five day per week schedule, there just wasn’t any time to try a different approach.

I think what really hurt us was when a driver was out sick. We all knew our routes but very few knew the other routes. When I started, there were no maps or route books to speak of. I myself created one when I was learning my route by going home every day and printing out the route area that I ran. I would then highlight the streets that were in my route. Most drivers didn’t do this and so it was chaos when a driver was absent.”


Route Optimization Strategies

Regardless of whether you are a Private or Public organization, many of the following techniques or strategies can assist to improve efficiency with your solid waste collection:

Heuristic Routing

Heuristic Definition: Logical, commonsense thought-process learned through experience that helps organize ideas, concepts, and information into a useful form or solution. In 1974, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released an outline for solid waste routing strategies.

Right Turns

The use of right turns and turnarounds saves time and fuel.

On-board Computers

On-board computers provide accountability and increase driver efficiency.

Optimize Dump Trips

Selecting the optimized location to leave route and head to transfer station/landfill.

Automated Collection

If your area is suitable for automation, it is the preferable way to go.

Optimize Customers

It may sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes canceling customers can save you money.

Routing Software

From point-to-point commercial collection to high-density residential collection there are many software solutions available.

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