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Solid Waste Routing – Improving Efficiency in Solid Waste Collection Part 4

Right Turns

A common concept in solid waste collection is to minimize left turns and maximize right turns. Interestingly, these days it is done more for safety than efficiency — eliminating or minimizing the dangerous left hand turns results in fewer instances the solid waste collection vehicle will have to turn in front of traffic.

An excerpt from Businessweek article on March 5, 2007 called “How Technology Delivers for UPS” says it succinctly:

“Not so long ago, UPS drivers worked off maps, 3-x-5 note cards, and their own memory to figure out the best way to run their routes. That changed in 2005 when UPS began to implement a $600 million route optimization system–think MapQuest on steroids–that each evening maps out the next day’s schedule for the majority of its 56,000 drivers. So sophisticated is the software that it designs each route to minimize the number of left turns, thus reducing the time and gas that drivers waste idling at stoplights.

UPSs innovation is an example of how technology can help companies capture institutional knowledge about their customers. Before, when a truck loader or driver walked out the door, the package- loading techniques or route tips they’d developed over the years usually walked out with them. Now that knowledge is accessible in a central system. That eases the burden on substitute drivers and shortens the training time for new ones, lessening the chances of a lapse in customer service. There’s no question the new system has enabled UPS to run its routes more efficiently. In November alone the company’s drivers logged 3 million fewer miles than they did the year before.”


The television show “Mythbusters” tested the theory of right-hand turns on one of their “MiniMyths” episodes and confirmed that even with more miles driven (as was the case in their test) making right hand turns consumed less fuel.

Right turns not only increase efficiency by reducing fuel consumption, they also increase safety for the driver and other vehicles on the road, because the driver no longer has to face oncoming traffic.


On-board Computers

As modern technology meets solid waste collection, numerous new items are becoming implemented in everyday collection practices. One such valuable piece of equipment is the on-board computer. Picture it as a GPS device on steroids. Now, not only can the driver follow his route using the system, but the driver can also communicate with their offices for updates and notifications of route obstacles, or customers who do not have trash out.

Benefits to On-board Computers:

Track Routes real time

  • Provides accountability by being able to locate where the collection vehicle is at all times.
  • Eliminates doubt in driver efficiency.

Eliminate going back to pick up “Not Outs”

  • Provides a GPS time- and-date stamp in addition to messages from the driver that a customer did not have trash out.
  • Depending on contract/requirements, may be enough to not require going back to collect from a customer who did not have the trash out for the collection vehicle.

Turn-by-turn shows driver how to run the route properly

  • Ensures that the route is driven according to the sequence created for it.

Relief Driver can run route without any prior knowledge of it

  • Drivers simply follow the GPS directions.

Integration with Billing Systems

  • With the drivers’ ability to communicate with billing software, you can automatically charge the customer for extra bags or extra collection, thus not miss additional revenue.

All of these benefits increase driver efficiency


Optimize Dump Trips

Most drivers head to the landfill to dump only when the vehicle is completely full. Generally this is not the most efficient way to handle dump trips. The route optimization software has a function to optimize dump trips.

If a route requires two dumps, then these dumps should be scheduled for when the vehicle is closest to the transfer station/landfill. By optimizing the dump trips, a driver can generally eliminate a trip or two per week for most routes.

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