The latest in garbage truck innovation is quietly rolling down Alachua County’s streets.
The royal-blue giants come complete with robotic arms and safety cameras.
And, yes, they even come with that new car smell.
The final six trucks in WCA Waste Corp.’s new fleet of 44 compressed natural gas refuse vehicles arrived Tuesday. About a dozen were sent out on routes, said Andy Toller, the general manager of the Houston-based company’s Gainesville facility.
Toller said each vehicle, designed to serve the range of commercial and residential waste services in Alachua County, is cheaper to fuel and features quieter engines.
“They are really good-looking pieces of equipment,” Toller said. “You’ll be astonished by the difference in the noise.”
The facility also recently received “Pinkie,” a garbage truck painted pink in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which Toller said would be used as a showpiece and back-up vehicle.
The trucks are refueled on-site at the company’s new fueling station, designed and built by TruStar Energy, based in California. The fueling station had its ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct.15 and will be fully operational Friday, Toller said.
The trucks and new fueling station are part of a nearly $20 million project required through WCA’s recently extended contract with the city of Gainesville. The extended contract required a public fueling station, according to the minutes from the July 18 city commission meeting.
Toller said he could not speak to the contract provisions, but said the company plans on converting the rest of the older fleet in Gainesville and will be doing the same at other divisions.
“We’re a company that prides ourself on maintaining the environment that we live in,” Toller said.
The fueling station, Gainesville’s first, was designed with expansion in mind and for immediate savings, TruStar marketing director Jeffrey Swertfeger said.
Compressed natural gas, as opposed to diesel or gasoline, is a cheaper, domestic fuel. Speculation or global politics don’t affect its price, Swertfeger said. As a cleaner burning fuel, it leaves a smaller carbon footprint and is better for the environment, he said.
Toller said the gas for the two-compressor fueling station is supplied by Gainesville Regional Utilities.
While the amount of gas WCA Waste Corp. required was large at first, the gas is ultimately the same as what would be supplied to other customers before being compressed, GRU spokeswoman Amelia Bell said.
“We are certainly happy to have them as customers,” Bell said. “It doesn’t affect anything differently on our end, even that they are using compressed natural gas.”
Each truck is capable of a “slow fill,” which takes about three to four hours, or a “fast fill,” which can be completed in about 12 minutes, Toller said. The trucks are then able to run for 13 hours, about the same time as their diesel-powered predecessors.
The new trucks are not without their faults, however. Toller said the height of the trucks mean the drivers will have to be especially careful on streets with low-hanging branches. Though it is a small adjustment, it was not a problem with the older vehicles, he said.
Swertfeger said the biggest problem he has heard from other stations is residents calling in to let their waste company know their trash wasn’t picked up. He said the real problem is that residents didn’t hear the garbage truck coming down the street.
“It’s a neat problem to have,” Swertfeger said. “Those CNG trucks, they sneak up on you.”