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Sun 13 Jun 2010 04:00 AM

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Dubai’s throwaway society

Waste collectors in the city are getting help from above as authorities demand GPS telemetry.

Dubai’s throwaway society
Prakash Parab: Design needs thought.
Dubai’s throwaway society
A Renault truck fitted with the new telemetry system, not that there is any way of telling from the outside.

Waste collectors in the city are getting help from above as authorities demand GPS telemetry.

They are everywhere, but we rarely talk about them, or even acknowledge their existence. Silently, they ply their trade in dark alleys and often in the dead of night. We are, of course talking about dustcarts, or ‘mobile compactors' to give them their correct name.

Often not considered truly part of heavy haulage, the main operators will run the mobile compactors for general refuse, as well as tankers for liquid waste.

The hydraulic compactor bodies with rear eject mechanism are a well-proven technology, and are constructed locally by firms such as Ocean City trailers. However, there has been a shift in the types of vehicle that are used. Prakash Parab, a director of waste management for Dulsco explained: "We haven't found a major change in demand for any particular truck, but what we have found that the smaller versions of the vehicles are better to use than the heavy equipment.

"In Dubai you see a lot of vans at different times, and that brings down the utilization of the vehicle. If your vehicle is small it can be used 24 hours in a day."

He added that the layout of buildings played a large factor in the types of trucks that it was practical to run: "Designers rarely think of the space required or easy access to the equipment. You see most of the hotels and apartments, the vehicle cannot access the garbage area in the basement section because the height is so low and it becomes very troublesome for the people to do it twice or three times a day. Just getting the bins out can be a problem, so is a design issue."
Meanwhile Trashco, another local firm in Dubai, has joined the digital age following a successful trial of on-board telemetry fitted to one of its vehicles. John Bergl from electronics supplier Arab IT said: "We signed [a deal to fit our system to] 100 vehicles initially. The way that our system works is with ‘geofences' around the areas which they are actually allowed to discharge at. If the door opens, we have a thing called ‘programmable logic control', which actually sorts the data, so if a door opens for three seconds it isn't an illegal dump, it is just that the driver has gone over a bump or similar.

"We are able to monitor very accurately where anything is discharged" he added.

There is no suggestion that this particular operator has a problem with illegal dumping, but it is an issue the authorities are addressing.

"I'm not so sure if industry is demanding [telemetry], but the municipalities certainly are. The fine for illegal dumping is AED100-200,000 and the queue for the dump at Al Awir can be up to or beyond seven hours, so it isn't surprising that the lorry driver might be tempted to drive five minutes into the desert" Bergl adds.

Like most modern telemetery, the box fitted to these trucks uses GPS and GLONASS satellites to find it's way. "We call it a track and trace system." Bergl clarified. "It comprises of a modem, which wakes up every half hour, or however long you want it to wake up. It sends back a snapshot of whatever is happening at that particular second in time. With our system they are monitoring every single second, so you can see exactly what happens."

Bergl says that another critical component to the system is the datalogger. "The computer based logger measures three-dimensional G-force. This means we can measure things like harsh braking, harsh cornering and harsh acceleration." He says that the benefits to this are twofold. "One is that the client has it for their CSR and we can prove it reduces accidents by 30-40 percent. The other of course is that it reduces wear and tear. We have one client who insists that his maintenance costs are down by 40%."

"We are able to give reports on every single driver at the time that they were driving" he concluded.

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