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Cleanest garbage trucks in the West
Cutting edge hybrids slash fuel costs, pollution, and noise
Solid Waste Division Lead Worker Jeff Santos behind the wheel of Californias first garbage truck equipped with RunWise hybrid technology. - photo by DENNIS WYATT

Get ready for a 51,000-pound “golf cart” to swish through your neighborhood.

It’s not a golf cart per se but a garbage truck with cutting edge hybrid technology that experts say sounds more like a golf zipping along links than the annoying clanking, screeching, and grinding noises that refuse trucks are known to make.

Manteca on Monday rolled out two new garbage trucks equipped with a Parker RunWise Advanced Series Hybrid Drive. They are the first of their kind in California and may also be the first to go into service west of the Rockies.

While they are substantially quieter, that’s not what caught the attention of Manteca Public Works personnel who have made a career out of finding innovative ways to reduce day-to-day operating costs. The RunWise system - used on Miami garbage trucks - has delivered fuel savings ranging between 40 and 50 percent over a conventional diesel garbage truck.

Possible $1.5 million savings over 10 years

That translates into a $70,000 to $100,000 fuel savings over the expected 10-year life of a garbage truck. And considering Manteca has 15 garbage trucks rolling on any given work day, that could translate into $1.5 million in fuel savings in a decade’s time based on 2012 prices. If diesel prices climb so do the savings.

And while Manteca could save a garbage truck full of money, that’s not what prompted the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to underwrite the cost of adding the system to a pair of new trucks with a $242,500 grant.

Since the trucks will burn up to 50 percent less diesel, a truck equipped with the RunWise system will reduce carbon emissions by 55 tons a year. That’s the equivalent of removing nearly 20 mid-sized cars from the road or planting as many as 2,600 trees and letting them grow for 10 years.

Deputy Public Works Director Jim Stone noted that’s just as important since the garbage trucks being put into service after the first of the year will operate in residential neighborhoods.

The fact they are significantly quieter is an added bonus.

R.J. Marotta - the Parker sales manager - noted that garbage truck drivers in Miami were stunned to hear how quiet the systems were. They stopped wearing their ear plugs noting that the noise was no more noticeable than that made by a golf cart.

The RunWise system also has another advantage based on the Miami experience. Because they run smoother, truck operators are more efficient. They have been able to increase the number of stops on a route by 10 to 15 percent.

That - when combined with the fuel savings - could very well help Manteca extend its streak for consecutive years of no monthly garbage rate increases well beyond the current five years.

Stone said the trucks will start appearing on Manteca streets for regular route collection early in January. When they do, they will be completely “wrapped” with art work letting the public know how clean the trucks are. It won’t be a subtle wrap either. It will include plenty of green grass, flowers, birds, blue skies, and such.

“You’ll be able to tell it’s the hybrid truck,” Stone said.

As part of the deal with the air pollution control district, both the new trucks will have their air pollution and fuel consumption carefully monitored. The same monitoring will be done on the same routes using conventional diesel trucks. The data will provide San Joaquin Valley air quality experts with their own information to determine how well the system works using the state’s reformulated diesel and other variations that don’t exist in Miami.

The city will also save on the wear and tear on brakes. Conventional refuse trucks need brakes replaced four times a year at a cost that can exceed $2,000 a pop. The RunWise system is expected to go two or more years before a brake change is needed.

City put first hybrid garbage truck in service back in March of 2011

This isn’t the city’s first hybrid garbage truck. In March of 2011 Manteca became the first city on the West Coast to roll out a garbage truck with a hydraulic launch assist system that is on target to reduce fuel consumption by up to 30 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent over basic diesel trucks. It was so cutting edge that the state Air Resources Board was still piecing together information on the truck when it went into service.

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 breaks 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.

The RunWise accelerates fuel savings and further reduces pollution by integrating mechanical and hydraulic drive elements into a 3-speed transmission to optimize efficiency at all speed ranges. All shifting occurs smoothly and automatically. All speed modes accommodate brake energy receiver allowing stored brake energy to be used to power the vehicle in all modes of transportation

Upon braking, RunWise works seamlessly with the refuse vehicle’s standard braking system using hydraulic fluid to decelerate the vehicle. At the same time, it simultaneously transforms and stores the vehicle kinetic energy in lightweight composite accumulators for use when the vehicle starts moving again. The more stops a vehicle makes, the more efficient the system becomes relative to a conventional drive train.

Typical garbage trucks without any hybrid system costs $300,000. Manteca’s entire fleet of 25 trucks ranging from side loaders to rear loaders will eventually be converted to cleaner technology. The city’s two new street sweepers already employ hybrid technology.

It is part of the city’s ongoing efforts to keep costs down. Twenty years ago, the city was using standard manual collection that allowed a drive to do 350 homes in one day. The city then switched to semi-automated trucks 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.