Bulk waste collection is a common challenge for haulers and municipalities due to both the elevated volume of waste needed to be collected and the cumbersome nature of the materials. However, advances in waste collection truck design have made it easier for waste workers to deal with these materials in a timely manner.

The city of Largo, Florida, offers commercial, residential and bulk solid waste collection for approximately 80,000 customers. In addition to its biweekly garbage and weekly recycling and yard waste pick-up, the city offers bulky waste pick-ups four times a year.

To handle its bulk waste, the city has been using Petersen grapple trucks since 1990. Over the years, the city has continually expanded its fleet. While the city originally operated two of the company’s flagship TL3 Lightning Loader trucks, it has since invested in three TL3 Route Assistant Grapple Loaders, along with two older models that are used as spare trucks when its other trucks are sidelined for maintenance or pick-up volumes dictate additional resources be used.

The main reason Largo Solid Waste invested in Petersen trucks was to prevent any further injuries among its employees, most of them caused by overexertion or muscle injuries. This was because prior to using Petersen grapple trucks, Largo relied on its workers to manually haul all its waste, even for bulk collection.

“All of our collection use to be manual,” Shauwn Clark, a Largo Solid Waste supervisor, says. “We were noticing … we were having a lot of worker’s comp injuries: A lot of back issues and arm issues from one or two people trying to lift up heavy stuff and throw it into a truck. We got those Petersen trucks to reduce the number of injuries that come with lifting heavy items.”

Picking Petersen

Petersen first began introducing trucks to the waste industry in 1957. While the Lightning Loader was the first model that gained traction in the industry, the company has continued to innovate in designing grapple loaders, transports and truck mounts. Some of the company’s current models include the TR3 Route Assistant Grapple Loader, the CP3 Container Transport and the SL3 Stationary Mount Grapple Loader.

Although there are competitors, Clark says the city has never deviated from Petersen vehicles since purchasing its first vehicle from them more than three decades ago. In fact, the city is willing to be an early adopter for the company’s newer technology, as was evidenced when the city became one of the first municipalities to include Petersen’s 2018 Route Assistant models in its lineup.

Thanks to the trucks’ intuitive design, Petersen trucks have become a staple in Largo’s lineup, making it easier to organize and carry out bulk pick-ups. The automated grapples, one of the main features of the trucks, serve to eliminate the need for drivers or helpers to physically deal with the waste, removing any situations where injury could be caused by physical labor or hauling.

The position of the grapple on the TL3 Route Assistant truck serves as a safety feature, as well, as the grapple’s side-mounted location, as opposed to a rear-mounted location, is less of an obstacle. This feature also allows manual haulers to move some of the material by hand into the machine while the grapple loads waste separately.

According to Casey Hardee, president and CEO of Petersen Industries, the TL3 Route Assistant is able to load material of virtually any size, including tricky materials like glass or bagged yard waste. The responsiveness of the grapple and its size are user friendly and make it easy for drivers to make short work of waste piles.

While injury prevention has been a notable benefit of investing in Petersen trucks, it is not the only advantage for the city. Since they’ve started using the Petersen grapple trucks, Clark notes that the route times have greatly improved and allowed the city to fine-tune its routing and expected duties of its drivers.

“When we converted to the new [Petersen] trucks, we rerouted all of our guys,” Clark says. “They serve about 600 to 900 houses per route, as opposed to what used to be like 1,400 to 1,600 [houses] per route. The drivers were more accountable for their routes because they don’t have the second truck coming through [to get what they missed, so] they are required to pick up everything on their route.”

The improved routing has also allowed drivers to finish their routes quicker so that they can assist on other routes when needed.

In addition to their current fleet of Petersen vehicles, Largo has four additional TL3 Route Assistant Lightning Loader trucks on order, with one arriving soon and the other three expected to be delivered in October 2022.

The author is an editorial intern for the Recycling Today Media Group.