City Sanitation Vehicle

by Harry Bradley

Published in Car Styling #15, July 1976

This is neither an article about automobiles or automotive styling. It is an essay on sanitation vehicles-garbage trucks. Nonetheless, this subject is appropriate for Car Styling Quarterly. Automobile designers today must deal with the entire vehicle including engineering, safety, human factors, legal restrictions, appropriate use of various materials and manufacturing techniques. Also, designers today must work with all types of vehicles including commercial and specialized types.

Garbage trucks have not changed in twenty years. They are noisy, inefficient, difficult to maneuver and very ugly. Various components are brought together in badly organized packages, creating vehicles which do their job very poorly. There is a need for rethinking this entire problem. A long range approach is obviously to start with the city itself: Analyze its problems, including city waste and its disposal or recycling. Here we are taking more of a short range approach to the problem which is the redesign and updating of vehicle hardware.

Of course the millions of dollars required to develop an entirely new sanitation vehicle is beyond the capability of most manufacturing firms. Yet, we know that many aero-space (and other non-automotive) companies are researching new vehicular areas outside or beyond traditional automotive products. Federal funding is available to assist in these programs of research and development which should be a positive incentive. A review of today’s equipment shows that most utilize medium-duty chassis cabs with gross vehicle weight ratings of 25,000 Ibs. -30,000 lbs. cabs are both conventional (about 108’’ bumper to back of cab measurement or B.B.C.) and tilt cabs (about 75” B.B.C.). Engines are either diesel (450-650 C.I.D. of 150-250 H.P.) or gasoline (350-500 C.I.D. of 200-300 H.P.). Each individual city or community specifies make of chassis cab, type and make of engine, drive train (including transmission, axles, tires, etc.) plus type of garbage collection equipment. This building block method usually results in a vehicle which has many short comings and compromises. Also, individual drivers often remove doors and make other drastic adjustments to suite their needs. This clearly indicates no one is really studying the function of those who use these trucks. Finally, in northern areas snow removal equipment is attached to garbage trucks for five or six months of the year which further reduces their usefulness because they become very difficult to manage.

The redesign of garbage trucks requires an analysis of their function: What do they do? In what type of environment do they function? How many personnel use the vehicle? What types of costs are involved in purchase and maintenance? What are the pros pros and cons of current equipment? Preliminary studies evaluate new package combinations. Each proposal moves farther away from current formats and toward a greater integration and organization of components. Long hood are eliminated for improved vision and shorter overall length. Engines move alongside, behind and finally under the cab areas. The latter is accomplished by using electric motors at each wheel similar to La Tourneau-Westinghouse heavy duty, off-road construction equipment.

The loading bin move up front after early attempts to integrate it into the rear section. Forward location allows ideal coordination of driver-loader. On current trucks, the two men cannot even communicate or see each other. Movable cab is extreme in its mechanical implications but has certain advantages in city traffic where garbage truck drivers must closely hug cars on alternate sides of the street. This frequently results in damage to the parked cars’ body sides. Cab elevation provides exceptional forward visibility.

Existing equipment found in most major cities is very complicated and usually includes street cleaners, truck type street cleaners with street washer reservoir, full street washer, rear load and front load garbage trucks, single chassis and tractor trailer dump trucks, skip loader (the last three for some removal).

A more efficient single vehicle can coordinate many of these needs in one design. The new vehicle not only includes front-garbage collection but a sort of underside bay doors which dump the collected garbage onto barges (in river front cities) or off a slightly elevated ramp in city dumps. Snow is scooped by built-in plow vaporized and exhausted out roof-top ports. When the main body is filled with water, the electric screw jacks at each wheel (used for changing tires and motors) can spray out a high pressure jet of water.

Overall power is by individual electric motors. Front steering is wagon type and allows almost right angle turning. Batteries are stored in front and rear sub-frames and can be charged during various breaks along the route as well as in the garage at night.

Aircraft or race car fabrication technology is used for all major body pieces or assemblies. The accordion pleated middle body is low friction plastic and telescoping shafts or tubes keep front and rear vehicle segments in alignment. Actual power for telescoping is accomplished by powering only the rear wheels and keeping the front wheels braked. Thus vehicle can be (1) enlarged, (2) expanded and contracted in quick sequence to compact garbage within, (3) reduced.

Comparison of new vehicle with old style demonstrates 36.4% increased cargo volume with 29.3% reduced length. When new vehicle is fully reduced it is 53.0% shorter. This reduced length is especially advantageous during morning hours in city congestion when vehicle is virtually empty.

  1. Jon B Albert

    I learned quite a bit from Harry Bradley about car design, even though I never had the opportunity to meet him, and he was never my instructor. I was introduced to his work through the annual new car preview magazines that usually hit the stands in August in the early ’70s, where he illustrated his best predictions about the styling of the coming new cars (often I was disappointed when the cars didn’t look as good as his work). He frequently contributed design essays to magazines like Motor Trend and Road & Track, illustrating innovative concepts in a sketch style that was elegant, eloquent and economic. From studying his work, I learned about choice of view for the message of the sketch, how to use line weight and page composition, how to focus mechanical detail and to embrace out-of-the box design solutions. From design friends who had him as an instructor, I understand he was critical, demanding and set a high standard for the quality of their work.

  2. Walter Gomez

    I was fortunate to have Harry Bradley as an transportation design instructor in 1976. He was one of the few members of the faculty who would show you how to sketch, including me when I was trying to design a better looking Jenson Healey. I believe it was in 1976 that he told us he was taking a political cartooning class with the then Op-Ed pages cartoonist at the Los Angeles Times to learn more about quick sketching and line work. The illustrations of the “future” mid-engine Corvette in a cover story in Road & Track in 1976 showed some of the cartoon-like line-work he had learned from the class.

    There are several posts featuring the artwork of Harry Bradley on DG.—Gary

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