That’s ‘less’ in terms of overall size, but ‘more’ as in more flexibility. And less in terms of impact on the environment, too. The basic concept behind this story started several years ago in Amsterdam, Holland. But as Malcolm Bates explains, thanks to an innovative new chassis option from DAF Trucks and bodybuilder Geesink Norba now everyone can benefit from the idea.
Here’s a funny thing. Sometimes we’re so busy looking at the details, that we don’t have time to stop and think if we’re looking in the right direction. For decades, the key marketing thrust by vehicle manufacturers was all about ‘capacity’. When it came to a garbage truck, ‘size’ mattered.
And when two axles weren’t enough? Designers started looking at three and even four. Never mind that the end-result was as large as a long-distance line-haul truck and never mind that it still had to negotiate some of the smallest, busiest streets in any urban landscape if it packed on more load than any rival design, it won the order.
The City of Amsterdam was one of the first to recognise that the standard European design of three-axle 26 tonne compaction-type collection vehicle was physically too large for working in busy downtown areas and instead specified narrow-width two-axle chassis (Iveco chassis modified by Ginaf) designed to operate at 18 tonnes gross weight.
To reduce noise and exhaust pollution, natural gas power units were specified. As there are probably more cyclists in Amsterdam than any other City, a smaller, less intimidating waste collection vehicle was a big issue.
So far, so good then. But there are limits to what can be achieved within the 14 to 16 tonne bracket even if such chassis provide a useful saving in unladen weight resulting from a smaller/ lighter power unit, and lighter components such as the suspension. In contrast, the compaction body and bin lifters will always have to feature substantial construction (lightweight waste bodies rarely stand the abuse), so how to achieve a greater capacity within a limited overall vehicle size envelope?
The answer is so obvious, it’s amazing no manufacturer has thought of it before take a mid-range 14/16 tonne chassis and add a third axle. That should result in a still narrow, easyto-drive chassis with a gross weight of around 20/22 tonnes and a payload of just under ten. Just such a configuration has been developed by the Paccar group company DAF Trucks specifically for urban waste collection operations.
On the unit I was able to spend the day with, the refuse collection equipment was supplied by Geesink Norba, but a number of other equipment manufacturers are now also offering this combination.
DAF chassis engineers have wisely not simply copied what works at 26 tonnes gross (rear-steer), so have at least in this application stuck to a 6x2 mid-steer format. This does of course add to the turning circle (over a 6x2 rear steer design), but considering most of the weight on a waste collection vehicle is at the back, it’s a wise decision LF has such a good steering lock to start with.
WIDER ISSUES NARROW CHASSIS
I went out with a UK-spec chassis fitted with a Geesink Norba 17 cubic metre capacity body on trials in an industrial city in the north of England, full of old 19th century terraced houses, where the big problem for the regular driver was caused by delays in negotiating lines of parked cars and finding places to stop in busy urban traffic.
Russell Markstein of NRG Fleet Services, the leasing company that has put the first units into service in the UK, explained that this compact unit should enable both councils (commmunes) and commercial waste operators to reduce collection times in congested areas.
But there’s a wider issue here I decided to watch for reactions from pedestrians, cyclists and other road users. Even though this trial machine was finished in a bold coloured all-over ‘wrap’ livery, few residents took a second look throughout a busy working shift.
Aside from purpose-built ‘full-size’ waste collection chassis, there are also one or two ‘narrow track’ chassis on the market. And there are numerous compact 4x2 chassis. But getting every key element combined into one chassis is far from easy. That the DAF LF is such a good base to start with is clearly an advantage.
That it can be specified with an extra axle without compromising the features that make it so attractive is even better. But here’s the bottom line a fully-specced DAF LF-based ‘narrow track’ 6x2 waste collection vehicle at 21/22 tonnes gross is likely to be 35,000 Euros less than a comparable three axle 26 tonner.
In today's uncertain operating environment, surely that’s a saving that could be well worth having?