Waste collection vehicle

Waste collection vehicle

A waste collection vehicle (WCV), or colloquially called a 'Garbage Truck', 'Dustcart' or 'Dustbin lorry' is a truck specially designed to pick up smaller quantities of waste and haul it to landfills and other recycling or treatment facilities. They are a common sight in most urban areas. Waste collection vehicles may also be known as:

Types of waste collection vehicle

There are five basic models of waste collection vehicles:
*Front loaders
*Rear loaders
*Automated Side loaders (ASL)
*Pneumatic collection
*Grapple trucks

Front loaders

Front loaders generally service commercial and industrial businesses using large waste containers with plastic lids [dumpsters (US), Biffa bins or wheely bins being the smaller household version (UK)] . The truck is equipped with automated forks on the front which the driver carefully aligns with sleeves on the waste container using a joystick or a set of levers. The waste container is then lifted over the truck. Once it gets to the top the container is then flipped upside down and the waste or recyclable material is emptied into the vehicle's hopper. Once the waste is dumped, it is compacted by a large blade called a "packer blade" that pushes the waste to the rear of the vehicle. Most of the newer WCVs have "pack-on-the-go hydraulics" which lets the driver pack loads while driving, allowing faster route times.

Rear loaders

Rear loaders commonly service residential areas. They have an opening at the rear that a waste collector can throw waste bags or empty the contents of bins into. Often in many areas they have a lifting mechanism to automatically empty large carts called "toters" without the operator having to lift the waste by hand. Typical bin sizes are 35-95 gallon carts.

Another popular system for the rear loader is a rear load container specially built to fit a groove in the truck. The truck will have a wire / chain or strap system for lifting in the two "eyes" on the rear top. The waste will then slide into the tray of the truck. Normal sizes are 6 to 22 m³. The disadvantage of the large containers is that it requires a lot of free space upwards, while the smaller bins never reach higher than the truck itself.

The rear loader usually compacts the waste with a sweep-and-slide system that digs in the waste and compresses it against a moving wall, that will move it towards the front of the vehicle as the pressure forces the hydraulic valves to open.

Bins pick up rubbish

Pneumatic collection WCVs

Pneumatic collection WCVs have a crane with a tube and a mouthpiece that fits in a hole, usually hidden under a plate under the street. From here it will suck up waste from an underground installation. The system usually allows the driver to "pick up" the waste, even if the access is blocked by cars, snow or other barriers.

Grapple trucks

Grapple trucks enable the collection of bulk waste. A large percentage of items in the solid waste stream are too large or too heavy to be safely lifted by hand into traditional WCVs. These items (furniture, large appliances, branches, logs) are called bulky waste or "oversized." The preferred method for collecting these items is with a grapple truck. Grapple trucks have hydraulic knucklebooms, tipped with a clamshell bucket, and usually include a dump body or trailer.


Wagons and other means had been used for centuries to haul away solid waste. Trucks were first used for this purpose soon after their invention. The 1920s first saw open topped WCVs used for the purpose, but soon covered vehicles became used more often. The open tops tended to drop waste and had poor odours. These covered trucks were first introduced in more densely populated Europe than in North America, but were soon used everywhere.

The main difficulty was that the waste collectors needed to lift the waste to shoulder height. The first technique developed in the late 20s to solve this problem was to build round compartments with massive corkscrews that would lift the load and bring it away from the rear. A more efficient model was the development of the hopper in 1929. It solved this problem by developed a cable system that a could pull waste into the truck.

In 1937 George Dempster invented the Dempster-Dumpster system in which wheeled waste containers were mechanically tipped into the WCV. His containers were known as Dumpsters, which led to the word dumpster entering the language.

In 1938 the Garwood Load Packer revolutionized the industry when the notion of including a compactor in the truck was implemented. The first primitive compactor could double a truck's capacity. This was made possible by the hydraulic presses.

1955 saw the Dempster Dumpmaster the first front loader introduced. They do not become common until the 1970s, however. The 1970s also saw the introduction of smaller dumpsters, often known as wheelie bins which were also emptied mechanically.

Since that time there has been little dramatic change. Compactor designs however, have been many and varied, one of the most popular being the traditional "sweep and slide" system where hydraulically-powered plates scoop out the waste from a loading hopper and subsequently compact it against the material already loaded. The Heil Colectomatic used a combination of a lifting loading hopper and a sweeper blade to clear and compact waste in anticipation of the next load.

So-called "continuous" compactors were popular in the 1960s and 1970s. The German Shark design (later Rotopress) used a huge rotating drum, analogous to a cement mixer, in conjunction with a serrated auger to grind down and compact the garbage. SEMAT-Rey of France pioneered the rotating rake system (also used in the British Shelvoke and Drewry Revopak) to both mutilate waste and break down large items. High fuel consumption has seen a decline in the popularity of continuously compacting garbage trucks.

In the mid 1970's Petersen Industries introduced the first grapple truck for municipal waste collection.

In 1997 Lee Rathbun, introduced the "Lightning Rear Steer System". This system is unique because it includes an elevated, rear-facing cab for both driving the truck and operating the loader. This configuration allows the operator to follow behind haul trucks and load continuously.

There has long been the dream of the fully automated WCV that could do away with all but the driver. Some cities do have these systems (see Side Loader above), but they are generally unable to deal with unexpected situations.

ee also

*Beach cleaner
*Dempster Dinosaur
*Dempster Dumpmaster
*Garwood Load Packer

External links

[http://www.commercialtransportexport.com/ COMMERCIAL TRANSPORT EXPORT LTD] - Established suppliers of quality used municipal vehicles for the UK and International markets.


* [http://www.tigerdude.com/garbage/ History of refuse collection] - Historical information and many pictures of WCVs.
* [http://www.classicrefusetrucks.com Classicrefusetrucks.com] - History of mechanical refuse collection equipment
* [http://ipspr.sc.edu/ejournal/images/Berger%20and%20Tomes%20Photo%20for%20Article%20-%20Sanitation.jpgSideloader truck] - picture
* [http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1636967/garabage_truck/ Video of Garbage Truck] - Garbage Truck in action (video on Metacafe)

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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