A Eureka moment

Features - Route Optimization

Eureka Recycling’s investment in new fleet management software improves collection efficiency for company’s drivers.

Subscribe
March 11, 2021

Photo Credit FleetMind

Eureka Recycling is a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that serves the recycling needs of more than 120,000 Twin Cities households every week. Eureka, which was founded in 2001, operates a materials recovery facility (MRF) that processes between 400 tons and 450 tons every day.

With long-term contracts to provide recycling services to the Minnesota cities of Minneapolis, Saint Paul, White Bear Lake, Roseville, Shoreview and Lauderdale, the company relies on its fleet of waste trucks to service the community.

Beyond being essential for performing its day-to-day collection functions, Eureka views its trucks as examples of the company’s commitment to more sustainable, smarter collection. According to Eureka, it was the first in the state, and one of the first in the nation, to run its trucks entirely on B-20 biodiesel. The company also has outfitted all of its trucks with diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs) to reduce particulate emissions.

In an effort to continue to prioritize more mindful and efficient collection, Eureka significantly upgraded its fleet in recent years to accommodate a switch from curbside bin collection to collection of carts in alleys as part of its contract with the city of St. Paul and its constituents. As a first step, the company purchased 21 new trucks, including 17 McNeilus trucks, which afforded them enhanced benefits brought about by semi-automated capabilities.

Around the time of the purchase, Eureka’s management started reviewing technology solutions and vendors, looking for an onboard computing system (OBC) to provide optimized fleet monitoring, efficiencies and safety benefits.

The selection process

Eureka spent nearly three years reviewing OBC vendors and capabilities. They knew their needs were complex and would require extensive customization to accommodate the company’s new routing structure, including the detailed incorporation of small alleyways that are often difficult to map via GPS. After deliberation on a number of vendors, Eureka’s management was eventually introduced to FleetMind Solutions, part of the Safe Fleet family of companies, by McNeilus, who has a partnership with FleetMind for its StreetSmart Vision 10 (SSV10) OBC system on both new and aftermarket vehicles.

After reviewing FleetMind’s technology, Eureka made the decision that it was the right product for them thanks to its functionality and customizable offerings, the company says.

Of Eureka’s fleet of 25 vehicles, the company says almost all were upgraded to the FleetMind system.

The system included the following functions:

  • In-cab smart display with hands-free, turn-by-turn directions for drivers, along with electronic route sheet notifications.
  • GPS tracking and telematics for improved customer service and real-time tracking of trucks, route progress, carts and related activities.
  • A DVR system and 360-degree cameras for enhanced driver and public safety, improved service verification, and the ability to easily capture all service exceptions.

According to Kate Davenport, co-president of Eureka Recycling, the functionality of the FleetMind system was a game-changer for the company.

“For our comprehensive and complex needs, we felt FleetMind was the best vendor. … Deploying the FleetMind system was like going from a rotary phone to an iPhone overnight,” Davenport says.

The rollout

Eureka’s ambitious and phased rollout plan posed challenges in terms of system customization, user adoption and change management. This was exacerbated by the fact that there were only about 6 months between when the company adopted the technology to when it fully launched.

This rollout schedule allowed for just four months of driver training. According to Eureka, there was a tremendous amount for drivers to learn and master in that time frame—between learning how to operate the new semi-automated trucks and adjusting to new routes and technology, drivers had to rethink how they collected recyclables.

"For our comprehensive and complex needs, we felt Fleetmind was the best vendor. ... Deploying the FleetMind system was like going from a rotary phone to an iPhone overnight,” –Kate Davenport, co-president of Eureka Recycling

As with any change in operations, there was hesitation among some of the drivers. However, after getting used to the new trucks and fleet management technology, the drivers readily embraced how the new tools made their jobs easier.

“Our drivers had a lot of frustrations at first. Now, they can’t live without it,” Davenport says.

As the rollout progressed, the complex system of alleys and variable lot sizes had to be incorporated into daily routing, which took time. In addition, Minneapolis’ dense urban setting where carts and containers are located in close proximity required a detailed and accurate tracking system.

Eureka worked with the FleetMind team in the year following adoption to tweak and customize the system to meet Eureka’s exacting routing and reporting requirements.

“The rollout demands were intense. In all, it took a year to fine-tune the system to what we wanted and to get our team in sync. FleetMind worked with us throughout the process to figure out the best way to implement the system for our needs,” Davenport explained.

Better frontline collaboration

Previously, when customers called to complain about missed pickups and other issues, it often came down to a “who do you believe” scenario between the driver and the customer, Davenport says. This created tension between frontline teams.

With the FleetMind system that incorporates cameras and DVR functions, this type of scenario has become a thing of the past, Eureka says.

Now, with pickup data available instantaneously, Eureka’s customer service personnel can verify if containers were placed out on time and provide any required evidence to customers, creating a more positive environment of trust and collaboration between drivers and customer service staff that doesn’t lead to finger-pointing.

“Drivers like that the FleetMind system provides documentation on the route so they feel supported in their decisions and get targeted training when needed,” Davenport says.

Eureka’s use of the FleetMind system to reroute its trucks to ensure more accurate tracking and navigation also led to other benefits. The new routing enabled optimized daily routes, a reduction in missed stops and it ensured wireless delivery of electronic route sheets to drivers.

In addition, if a driver calls in sick, Eureka says dispatch can now quickly redirect other drivers to cover these routes, which eliminates miscommunication as to how the open route will be covered.

“The FleetMind route management system allowed us to eliminate one route per day within two months,” Davenport says.

Improved safety and visibility

While improved efficiencies came as part of the system integration, Eureka also wanted to ensure maximum safety for both its workers and residents. McNeilus’ semi-automatic trucks helped to reduce risk for drivers, but the FleetMind system also played a large role, the company says. Specifically, the FleetMind camera systems and mobile DVR have allowed drivers to better detect unsafe situations. With 360-degree views around the truck, drivers can now capture video of activities from all angles, virtually eliminating blind spot areas. Additionally, the cameras are useful for securing evidence for accident and dispute resolution.

Another benefit to installing FleetMind camera systems was the elimination of unnecessary trips. For example, when customers call to complain about a missed pickup, Eureka can provide evidence as to whether recycling was or was not put out for service. This has dramatically reduced the number of unscheduled, and costly, retrieval trips the company has to make, Davenport says.

“If you prevent just five unnecessary trips per day, the camera system pays for itself,” she says.

Better reporting

Having a municipal recycling collections contract also means tracking statistics and key performance indicators. With FleetMind’s reporting capabilities, Eureka can be more responsive to the municipality, identify and solve problems faster, improve operational efficiency, meet targeted goals, make better-informed decisions, and capture the information required to better align the organization with its municipal clients, the company says.

Eureka will celebrate its 20th birthday in November 2021. With almost two decades of operations under its belt, the company has recycled well over 1 billion pounds of material to date.

Now, with more efficient trucks and sophisticated fleet management technologies at its disposal, the company is poised to build off its history of sustainable operations by sending trucks out into its community to collect waste in a smarter, safer, greener and more accountable way.

Don Diego Padilla II is the vice president of sales at Safe Fleet, Waste & Recycling Division. He can be reached at dpadilla@safefleet.net.