With a rotating cylindrical body and a sleek profile, new trucks being test-driven by Waste Management look nothing like garbage haulers of bygone years.
But then the company would probably bristle at the term since, for all intents and purposes, it has banished the word "garbage" from its vocabulary with its shift to a business model that focuses on reducing waste and recycling.
The vehicle pictured to the left is a Rotopress collection trailer. Made by the German company Faun, the vehicle runs on compressed natural gas, can hold as much as 14 tons of material (four more tons than conventional trucks) and features a modular design that enables users to switch out the trailer or cab as needed to diversify a fleet.
The trailer's rotating drum mixes collected material, which effectively dries it, and distributes the load through the container. The former helps reduce odor, leakage and damage inside the drum, and the latter reduces wear and tear on the vehicle.
The truck can be used to collect trash, recycling and other material. For its pilot program, Waste Management is using the Rotopress to collect organic waste with an eye to the company's expanding composting business.
A truck was on display this week at company headquarters in Houston, where the pilot will begin. Four other cities also will be trying out the trailers this year: San Diego and Sacramento, Calif., will each get two; Milwaukee, Wis., and Camden, N.J., will get one apiece.
Waste Management is working to convert its fleet from diesel to natural gas vehicles and has a goal of eventually running a zero-emissions fleet. So far, it has more than 1,400 heavy-duty natural gas trucks on the road and the Rotopress trucks would join them. The company also aims to increase fuel efficiency by 15 percent, decrease emissions by 15 percent, save 350 million gallons of fuel and reduce 3.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2020.
Besides bolstering the company's efforts toward its environmental goals, the trucks also offer operational benefits that are likely to be appreciated by the drivers and the neighborhoods they work in.
The trucks don't make the racket that's typical of convention vehicles. The drum on the trailer is sound-proofed and natural gas engines tend to run more quietly. The truck also has a tight-turning radius as the video below shows.
In a plus for vehicle maintenance, the business end of the truck has fewer moving parts than conventional haulers -- nine versus as many as 40 -- and no blades, which means there's nothing for material to get caught in and operators don't have to deal with a potential safety hazard.
The truck is making its debut in North American with the Waste Management pilot, but Faun's Rotopress technology has been used in commercial waste collection in Europe for more than 80 years.
Photo and video courtesy of Waste Management.