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As good as brand new

With ever-tightening budgets and increasing pressure to deliver the same services, for less cost, local authorities are increasingly looking at different ways to get more out of their waste and recycling collection fleets.

Purchasing new vehicles direct from manufacturers or hiring vehicles may not always be affordable, but what options are left?

Gloucestershire-based company, Refuse Vehicle Solutions, claims to have the answer and is experiencing an increasing surge in demand for their re-manufactured refuse vehicles, both from the public and private sector.

The cost savings are huge with a re-manufactured vehicle. On average RVS customers pay 40% less for a refuse vehicle that is arguably as reliable as a new vehicle and built to the same specification.

Refuse Vehicle Solutions managing director Spencer Law has been building and repairing dust carts for over 25 years, first as a service engineer at Jack Allen (a refuse vehicle body builder that has since been bought by competitor Dennis Eagle) and then moving on to set up Wastetec, providing maintenance services for local authorities and commercial businesses.  

“There is a world of difference between what we do to a vehicle and what you might get if you purchase a second hand or ‘refurbished’ vehicle,” says Law. “We can engineer a vehicle to meet a customer’s precise requirements, whether that involves full or partial body re-manufacturing. A big plus is that we can beat manufacturers lead times.  We can often source, re-manufacture and deliver an ‘as new’ vehicle in under four weeks.

Law added: “You could expect to wait for up to three months for a vehicle straight from the factory floor and our clients can’t wait that long. When they need a replacement vehicle they need it now.”

Law throws down the gauntlet: “I challenge anyone to re-build a vehicle as well as we do it. Our team understands all makes and models of refuse vehicles inside and out. When stripping and re-manufacturing a vehicle, our attention to every detail is meticulous.”

Recently RVS supplied a fleet of seven refuse vehicles, each with the identical specification for Pakawaste’s new hire division, Pakawaste Municipal Hire, in under six weeks.  In most cases a customer would expect to wait 20-24 weeks to receive a new fleet of this size and specification.

Once an appropriate vehicle has been sourced RVS has the engineering expertise and in-house capability to modify a vehicle to meet a customer’s specification, such as retro-fitting either under-body or bin-lift weighing systems, or changing bin-lifts. Thus RVS is able to meet very tight customer deadlines as it can source a vehicle and then modify it, rather than being restricted by what is directly available in the market place. 

Next in the re-manufacturing process is a ‘Super Jack’ steam clean of all parts, the chassis, body and bin lift. So precise and thorough, this process takes on average three working days to complete.

The vehicle is then painstakingly inspected by RVS qualified engineers; comprising an MOT standard chassis inspection with an independent brake test; a body inspection; and a bin-lift inspection exceeding even LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998) standards.  Every defect, mechanical and cosmetic, is recorded and a work plan is drawn up that prioritises pre-paint shop rectification tasks plus any customer specifications regarding hoist changes and on-board weighing.

Where a fully re-manufactured body has been ordered, a host of additional tasks are added to the work plan, including the replacement of all hydraulic hoses, ancillary wiring looms, control boxes and control buttons, switches and lighting. The PTO and Hydraulic Pup are also replaced to remove any trace of vulnerability from the equipment. RVS only uses the most qualified engineers and welders to carry out the work and sub contracts specialist engineering as required.

A second inspection is then carried out and any additional tasks added to the work planner before the vehicle is sent to RVS’s purpose-built paint facility, based in Warwickshire. Comprising a 350sq m preparation shop and a 200sq m paint shop the facility is designed to accommodate all types and sizes of refuse vehicles, hook lifts, ejector trailers and bin lifting equipment. The paint centre includes a drying oven that can produce fully-hardened two pack paint in under an hour. 

The re-sprayed vehicle and parts are returned to the depot for re-building, before a full service is carried out. All vehicles are presented for MOT at the local VOSA testing station.   

Prior to delivery, RVS re-inspects the vehicle one last time and the cab, body and bin-lift are fully valeted. The results are pretty startling with most customers in disbelief that the vehicle could be second-hand.

Westminster: True grit

Westminster City Council has got to grips with the UK’s unpredictable weather by revamping its refuse collection and street cleansing fleet so that it will save fuel, money and can double as winter gritters.

Under its contract with waste management firm Veolia, the council now has a 70 strong fleet of Dennis Eagle trucks that have quieter hydraulic equipment and are much more fuel efficient. Westminster council estimates that with each individual collection round taken into account, it will save more than £300,000 a year in fuel costs. The fleet will collect 35 million bags every year equivalent to 1.7bn litres of waste or enough to fill 700 Olympic swimming pools. The trucks also have the capacity to save C02 emissions by 73 tonnes a year.

The vehicles come with a ‘fuel saver pack’ which is designed to increase fuel efficiency and features improved engine management and soft pack hydraulics designed to improve vehicle flow technology. Other features include a dynamicthrottle control that prevents drivers from being able to over-rev the engine, and CMS EcoTrak, a vehicle telematics solution that records fuel usage data, driver behaviour, maintenance, service data and GPS location information.

But the council is also one of the first in the UK to take on the Hako Citymaster street cleaning machines, which can double up as pavement gritters during cold weather. With a simple attachment and flick of a switch they can go from cleaning the streets to keeping them safe for pedestrians.

The machines have a flushing mode with a force of 150psi (pound per square inch) meaning it can provide a deep cleanse of the street. The Hako cleaners weigh 2.1 tonnes and so are allowed to be used on Westminster’s pavements as well as the roads.

For good measure the council is also being provided with a Scarab Merlin XP road sweeper which can be used for larger, special events. But at 7.5 tonnes they can be parked at Veolia’s depots within the City of Westminster so they can respond quickly and can also be driven by non-HGV drivers. Much larger refuse and recycling vehicles have to be based at Veolia’s depots in Brent or Deptford.

“Keeping the city clean remains a key priority for Westminster,” says Cllr and cabinet member for city management Ed Argar. “Our new fleet is a great symbol of the investment we are making to keep our city clean – reducing noise and helping the environment in the process, without spending more money – a win-win situation.”

Rebecca Oxenham is marketing manager at Reuse Vehicle Solutions


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