By transitioning to Bridgeport’s Ranger Automated Side Loaders, TFC Recycling has lowered their operating costs and kept it simple.
As the largest recycling company in the mid-Atlantic region, TFC Recycling, located in the Hampton Roads (Colston) area of Chesapeake, VA, operates a large MRF in Chesapeake, a smaller one in Richmond and a baling and transfer operation in Newport. The company provides recycling and trash-related curbside collection to about 700,000 homes throughout the Colston area of VA, through the central part of the state, and in and around the Richmond marketplace. In addition, their commercial line of business (front load, roll-off) serves around 4,000 accounts in the key marketplaces. In total, TFC runs about 130 trucks between the two markets.
A Mixed Bag
When Senior Vice President and COO Paul Stacharczyk first joined TFC Recycling six years ago, he found something of a mixed bag of fleet equipment and components. “Essentially, at that point, whenever TFC Recycling needed to buy equipment, they would identify a platform, like an automated side loader, get bids from everybody and the best bid would get purchased. What we ended up with over a period of time was a half dozen different kinds of chassis platforms and all types of bodies. One of my original goals was to develop a strategy where we could, over a period of time, standardize the chassis and the bodies,” explains Stacharczyk. “When it came to the equipment, the price was important but the primary thing we were looking for was how it fit into our long-term strategy and standardization.”
Ultimately, Stacharczyk chose to go with an Autocar chassis because of the power unit and CNG component, and Bridgeport Truck Manufacturing’s truck bodies because of the durability. Bridgeport Truck Manufacturing (Breckenridge, TX) has been building refuse and recycling equipment for 21 years with the majority of the business in the design and manufacture of automated side loaders. “TFC located our service through their chassis dealer and some past knowledge of our product from a local municipality that purchased our product,” says Jerome Rendon, Vice President of Sales for Bridgeport.
“We received the very first truck from Bridgeport pretty quickly because it was actually on the floor of the Waste Expo 2011 and we bought it outright. When the show was finished, they delivered it right to us,” laughs Stacharczyk. “It was an a la carte chassis with a Bridgeport body that had a scenic wrap on it. We were so impressed with that wrap that we put one on every one of our CNG trucks from that point forward. From our pink Breast Cancer Awareness truck to military themed designs, which include fighter jets and aircraft carriers, etc., the whole idea came from the first wrapped truck from Bridgeport.” After negotiations between TFC and Bridgeport, additional completed Bridgeport bodies were delivered six months after that.
Hank Brown, Director of Fleet Operations, stresses that they were looking for uptime on the vehicles as well as parts standardization so that there would be less parts on the shelf, less inventory, more cost controls and multiple parts that could be used on several vehicles. Bridgeport’s Ranger Automatic Side Loader is specially built so that the extra weight of the CNG tanks is not part of the chassis, they are part of the body, specifically the cab of the truck. This unique design allows for the weight to go over the front wheels, which gives TFC more payloads for what they are hauling.
“A lot of companies just add CNG tanks to the top or the sides of the truck, but what Bridgeport’s trucks do is transfer that weight across the chassis,” explains Brown.
“We want to keep that weight over the front wheels so we can have a better payload and a better payoff.”
Brown also says that they wanted a simple system that did not require a lot of microprocessor-controlled components. “If you have a system that doesn’t require a laptop to repair, it means the truck can be repaired in the field a lot faster and your vehicles can stay on route. We had an opportunity with Bridgeport to have multiple components where our maintenance person could take a bag with six relays in it and repair just about anything on the fly. In our business time is money, so when the truck is not rolling, it is costing several thousand dollars an hour.” He stresses that these are important things to have, especially the simplicity of needing the least amount of tools to perform repairs. TFC’s mechanics like the Bridgeport trucks because they are simple to work with and only require a standard set of tools and a welder. As a result, there is less downtime and they are able to keep more trucks up and on the road. “Most of the time when you have special trucks that have special equipment, parts are very costly and you can’t afford to keep them in stock. Here, we stock everything because all of the trucks are the same. We just need a few O-ring kits and cylinder packing material and we can repack our cylinders in house, install the O-rings and continue on,” says Brown.
Adds Rendon, “Bridgeport’s Ranger Automated Side Loaders are the most uncomplicated bodies on the market because of their innovation for simplicity. We are not sending a man to the moon. There are many benefits to lowering costs by keeping it simple.”
Fuel and Additional Savings
The CNG units have now been in service for two years providing a cost effective, low maintenance addition to TFC’s fleet. From a fuel standpoint, the current cost for CNG including taxes and compression fees is currently around $1.25 to $1.35 per gallon, whereas the diesel equivalent is $3.75 to $3.80 per gallon. “In addition to the fuel benefits, one of the things that we’ve improved upon is routing efficiency by reducing the amount of trucks we need to run per routes,” says Stacharczyk. “One of the contracts that we have is with the city of Virginia Beach. When I first came to TFC and we were running a mixed bag of diesel trucks, we were averaging about 23 trucks per day servicing that area. Today after incorporating on average eight to 10 of the new CNG Bridgeport trucks into the same area, we average about 16 routes per day, so we’ve been able to cut down the routes significantly by having more efficient equipment and the fuel cost-savings.” He also stresses that in addition to the great savings on the CNG fuel, Bridgeport trucks have a lighter body due to being made with lighter alloys, which, in turn, also provides better fuel savings in the long run.
Brown also points out that another area in which they are saving costs is the soft belt design, which means that it doesn’t tear up carts at collection. “We just started tracking it in the last year—many of the older trucks that we had with a steep clamp-style pickup automated side loader would wear out the carts.
People don’t think about the cart getting torn up to be much of a cost, but when you look at the cost of replacing a new cart every time one gets damaged from weather or trucks or otherwise, you can imagine the cost per year. Bridgeport has a unique design with the arm that will reach out, pick up the cart and not break it all to pieces.”
Stacharczyk is also impressed with the amount of service and support that they have gotten from Bridgeport since they ordered their first truck from them. “The support that we get from Bridgeport is phenomenal. If we need someone to come down here for a rare problem, Jerome is here in a heartbeat.” Brown agrees, “Tony Kouri is the owner and we have had a great relationship with him. He really listened to us regarding the specifics that we wanted on the body.”
Rendon stresses, “Ultimately, the Bridgeport Ranger Automated Side Loaders provide lower overall body height for legal CNG installation, which is especially important going through a residential neighborhood when the normal impacts are low power and communication lines and low tree limbs. In addition, not only do the trucks have a better weight distribution with or without the CNG bottle location and simplicity of design, there are also no computers to control the body functions, a one-piece packing blade, a tapered body to ease unloading and a proven 21-year old arm.”
The Next Round of Trucks
Stacharczyk says that right now they have 20 collection trucks transitioned to the Bridgeport automated side loaders and another three utility trucks that have been switched out. “We will shortly begin to invest in the next round of trucks—about 20 total. It will happen over the next couple of years having just finalized the renewal of our Richmond area contract.”
Brown stresses that the one thing he really likes about Bridgeport is that they are truly American made. “The fact that the parts are made here in this country by American
workers is really important to me. A lot of manufacturers have gone overseas or outside of this country to avoid costs, but I like the fact that the parts that are shipped to me are American made as well as the trucks.”
Stacharczyk continues, “From a business standpoint and strategy, I’m looking at the long-term cost benefits and service benefits of the equipment, not necessarily what the upfront costs are going to be. There’s no question in my mind that this was the right decision to make. Bridgeport has proved to be extremely reliable with great products. The only trucks we are going to buy going forward are CNG or other forms of alternative fuel vehicles.”