By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
New refuse truck is state-of-the-art
City Fleet Manager Bob Moulden, left, and municipal refuse worker Bill Kuhnlenz stand in front of the West Coast’s first hydraulic launch assist refuse collection truck. - photo by DENNIS WYATT
Bill Kuhnlenz drives the ultimate clean machine.

The city solid waste worker has been climbing behind the wheel of Manteca’s new $293,000 refuse collection truck for the last week or so helping to clean up not just the city by hauling off trash but also helping clean up the air while making sure collection costs don’t clean out the pockets of ratepayers.

“Other drivers will be surprised by the smooth ride,” Kuhnlenz. “It doesn’t lurch.”

The smooth ride is a byproduct of the truck’s hydraulic launch assist (HLA) system that is expected to increase fuel economy up to 30 percent, significantly reduce brake replacement costs, and reduce carbon dioxide emission by 40 percent or more over basic diesel refuse trucks.

“We’re way ahead of the curve,” noted City of Manteca fleet manager Bob Moulden. “It’s the first truck of its kind on the West Coast.”

 It is so cutting edge that the state Air Resources Board is still piecing together information on the truck.

 The HLA system works much like a gasoline-electric hybrid. It works by recovering a portion of the energy normally lost as heat when the vehicle’s brakes are engaged. Unlike gasoline hybrids such as a Toyota Prius, it doesn’t employ a battery pack. Instead the hydraulic system uses pistons to capture the wasted energy by compressing nitrogen gas stored in a tank. When the foot is taken off the pedal the wheels drive a hydraulic pump that sends hydraulic fluid to compress the nitrogen gas to slow the truck down. When the pedal is pushed down, the nitrogen expands to push a piston in a cylinder filled with hydraulic fluid to help the diesel engine turn the rear wheels.

Moulden expects the city to recoup the extra $40,000 the truck cost within several years through diesel fuel savings and reduced brake work. Typically a refuse truck needs its brakes replaced four times a year at a cost that can exceed $2,000 a pop. The HLA system significantly whittles down the need for brake work to a little over a year plus between shop appointments.

The increased fuel economy is another away the HLA equipped truck helps reduce costs. A typical refuse truck travels 68 miles on a work day and gets an average of six miles per gallon of diesel. Saving four gallons a day would translate into $16 in reduced costs for one day, $90 for a week, $4,680 for a year, and $46,800 for a typical 10-year lifespan of a city refuse truck. And if diesel prices keep climbing so will the savings.

Eventually all of the fleet’s 25 trucks will be converted to the HLA technology. The city is already one of a few agencies in the state that meets tougher new emission standards that must go into place over the next several years.

It is part of the city’s ongoing efforts to keep costs down.  Eighteen years ago, the city was using standard manual collection that allowed a driver to do 350 homes in one day. The city switched to semi-automated that increased efficiency so one driver could collect from 750 homes a day. Now with the fully automated system a driver can pick up trash at as many as 975 homes per shift.

City Manager Steve Pinkerton noted the solid waste fund has adequate money to replace the trucks as the city goes forward.