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Loads – why onboard weighing is important

Making sure loads are the correct weight is key when collecting waste and taking it to landfills. Not only because landfills charge levies by weight, but because overloaded trucks are a danger to other road users and increase wear and tear on roadways and impair vehicle safety.   

Stuart Knight is the product manager for onboard weighing systems for Diverseco, a company that specialises in onboard vehicle weighing systems: from overload suspension systems to high accuracy underbody loadcells systems and trade-approved, charge-by-weight systems.

He has said that over the past few years he has seen charge-by-weight becoming dominant in the commercial waste sector, which is why Diverseco has invested in products that can help companies make sure they are complying with standards and legislation.

“We introduced the first trade-approved “BinWeigh” system into Australia, which utilises Swiss technology and measures the weight of each loaded bin, providing net bin weights,” he said. “This information maximises charge-by-weight operations with highly accurate weight data and is appropriate for most front, rear, and side-lift loaders.”

Tim Francis is Diverseco’s general manager for automation. He said it is also about making sure efficiencies are being met.

“It would be fair to say of the onboard product, it’s not so specific to this segment within the waste sector but rather the waste collection component of it,” he said. “It is an advantageous tool to those companies that hold that contracts for waste collection so that they can monitor efficiencies. They can monitor load runs to make sure they have maximum payload, but not too much – you don’t want to be running around with a half-empty truck. That is not good business sense. The scales are great, but ultimately it is the data that these systems yield that is empowering for the owner.

Read more: WA saves 765 million containers from landfill

Importantly, said Francis, the systems come with a crucial feature in that it helps clients achieve compliance under chain of responsibility legislation.

“When you think about it, you’re going around in a truck and you’re picking up waste bins, and you’re throwing the content into the back of your truck,” he said. “If you don’t weigh that, you have no idea how heavy your truck is becoming or how heavy it currently is. It could be full of milk bottles, in which case it could be light, or it could be full of house bricks, in which case you are probably overloaded.”

Looking ahead with automation, Francis sees a big future for the technology in the industry. He thinks it will be a mixture of robotics and AI, however, there is still a lot of work to be carried out with the technology.

“Robotic sortation will be entering more into industry as the artificial intelligence technology improves. To be fair, it is still very much in the developmental phase at the moment,” he said. “Most people in that space are looking for a partner where they grow that technology to a space where it is commercially viable because in reality there can be a significant ramp-up and learning time for the artificial intelligence to become effective.

Waste is one of the most unstructured environments you will find; you never know what the next piece of gear is coming down the waste line on the conveyor. That is quite the puzzle for artificial intelligence to cope with. When you start looking at general waste or recyclables, I’m not sure how many robots you would need and I’m not sure how big the computer would be in order to handle the AI required to deal with all those things concurrently in the one environment”

At the foundation of Francis’ point is data. Like a lot of industries – especially manufacturing and other industries – data is not only important in terms of the information it provides, but it can start to influence the bottom line in terms of identifying inefficiencies to be rectified. Waste is no different.

“From the data perspective, people are using it for payment, which is absolutely crucial and paramount for the business,” he said. “Generally speaking, waste can be measured from a cubic volume perspective as well as from weight, and these measurements are often linked to customer, levy, and other payments. The method of measurement is often mandated by government or regulatory authorities. The higher the volume, the greater the likelihood that a legal-for-trade weighing instrument will be required for measurement.

“Modern day compliance standards, particularly when considering the EPA, requires record-keeping and traceability throughout the life cycle of the item, from cradle to grave – from point of manufacture to point of disposal. Weighing devices can be beneficial in automating and systemising the collection of this data to assist in meeting those compliance requirements.“

While people of a certain age remember how things used to be – no waste levies to tip your waste at the local landfill (it was covered by council rates), and there were incinerators in our back yard – the waste landscape has changed significantly since then, according to Francis.

“One of the problems with waste in the past was that there was not enough money in it for people to do the right thing. Now there is. That situation has changed over time. As the prosperity has improved, so too have the penalties for not meeting requirements,” he said. “The governments and waste collectors themselves are really gearing up to take it to the next level and identifying the waste source, and fairly soon we’ll start to see the introduction of RFID tags on domestic bins. When a company comes and picks up your bin and throws it into the back of the truck, they will know that it is yours. They’ll have cameras on there. They’ll record what waste was yours, and how much of it was it was yours. Even down to what was in the bin.”

Knight said the company is working closely with councils and is seeing many changes within the industry when it comes to new technologies.

“We work closely alongside vehicle suppliers and body builders for a variety of applications, providing engineering support, with our national service team providing support for end users in the field. Chain of responsibility laws have drastically increased the need for overload protection systems, with major increases in uptake among local councils operating with small and large tippers, which can be easily overloaded.”