Volvo Trucks London waste warriors


Volvo Waste TrucksLast year, companies and industries in London generated 4.5 million tonnes of refuse. In order to meet demand, Bywaters recently initiated an innovative partnership with Volvo for the delivery and maintenance of 52 new trucks.

It is a sunny but chilly July morning at Bywaters’ headquarters at Lea Riverside, Bow. Driver Terry Gilling is carrying out his daily checks on his brand new Volvo FE Refuse Collection Vehicle (RCV) and runs through the jobs lined up for today. He has regular collection rounds picking up and emptying bins containing recyclable materials at businesses and offices across London.

“After we’ve been to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Queen’s Square,” says Terry, “We’re going to the Eurostar depot at Stratford and then on to Canary Wharf.”

At no more than 65 miles per working day, annual mileage is low but the constant stop-starts and ultra slow moving heavy traffic place great demands on truck and driver alike.

“We typically do about 30 to 50 collections a day,” says Terry. “Because the Local Authorities have different regulations as to when we can pick up bins, Bywaters has a sophisticated traffic and logistics system to ensure we can meet customer’s requirements.”

Bywaters has several thousand customers in London and the south east of England. Their state of the art Materials Recycling Facility (MRF), officially opened in 2008 by London Mayor Boris Johnson, is the only one of its kind in the south-east of England to be fully under cover. Around 98% of all material entering here is recycled. Bywaters currently operates two 4-hectare MRFs processing recyclables, residual and construction materials, including plasterboard. These facilities are licensed to handle 1,500,000 tonnes of waste a year. According to statistics published by the British government, businesses in London created 4.5 million tonnes of waste in 2010.

As dawn breaks over the iconic silhouette of London’s St Paul’s cathedral, Terry Gilling eases his Volvo FE into the already heavy traffic on the Victoria Embankment. We are en route from the first job of the day at the Royal Festival Hall to make a collection at a hospital not far from the British Museum in Bloomsbury. Terry is a London driving veteran with 23 years experience under his belt. Although only with Bywaters for the last year, he has driven trucks for the whole of his career in the dense traffic of the capital.

Terry’s FE 6×2 rearsteer is equipped with a six-speed automatic gearbox which is operated from a key pad by the side of his seat. That and the high-mounted reversing camera are key aids helping him manoeuvre his FE into a position where he can pick up and empty a range of bins, some of 1,100 litres capacity, containing either dry recyclables or even food waste. Thanks to its rearsteer axle, the FE can work efficiently and safely in very confined spaces – most of which were designed to be accessed by horse and cart. Although Terry admits that the automatic gearbox is a ‘boon’, he says that the Volvo’s steering and lifting rear axle are the key to getting in and out of these very tight locations.

“Despite being a six-wheeler, it’s as manoeuvrable as a four-wheeler,” he says.

Bywaters RCVs usually carry a driver plus a driver’s assistant who acts as banksman when the truck is reversing and also as the operator of the material handling equipment at the rear of the Incomol bodywork. The compactor’s massive packer plate is hydraulically operated via a gearbox-mounted PTO. It’s relatively quiet in operation and the controls are clear and easy to read. Terry’s FE not only has a conventional open back and twin wheelie bin lift, it also features a heavy duty Rear End Loader (REL) hoist for picking up trade waste bins as well as forks to enable bales of cardboard and paper to be loaded into the machine’s capacious maw.

Official figures show that, despite the introduction of the congestion charge in 2003, traffic speeds in central London have remained persistently slow at around 10 mph – the same as horse-drawn carriages 100 years ago. It is this which presents one of the biggest challenges faced by Terry as he goes about his job. As Terry gingerly reverses off the road into the narrow entry to the yard where the trade waste bins are stored at the rear of the hospital, he shows off the driving skills needed to make an efficient collection. From there, we drive across London to the Eurostar depot where the Volvo FE empties bins full of litter collected from the futuristic looking trains. Next, it’s over to Canary Wharf, the heart of the financial area to the east of the city and only a few miles from Bywaters’ MRF. The FE goes underground to a concrete complex where Canary Wharf’s waste bins are stored.

It is situated on the North bank of the River Thames in the Docklands area, a district that is home to many of the world’s leading banks and financial institutions. Bywaters’ Strategic Development Manager David Rumble explains that this very large and high-tech facility is another of Bywaters’ blue chip customers. He tells us that, in addition to handling the collection of dry recyclables such as disposable coffee cups and sandwich packaging from the many cafés and shops in the retail area, Bywaters also provides a secure document shredding service to the banks. All the collections take place in an underground area and Bywaters was a key partner in designing the waste delivery and collection system here.

“Bywaters has to consistently achieve our agreed KPIs for compliance with the daily collection schedule as well as Health and Safety and efficiency in terms of turnaround time at the site. We have an Account Manager who can deal straight away with queries”, says David Rumble.

Canary Wharf is one of Europe’s busiest and most intensive business centres for the financial world.

“There is also a large, showcase retail development here that requires intensive levels of servicing to keep in top condition. We remove several tons of material discarded by shoppers every week and we maintain a discreet service. The fact that the new Volvos comply with the latest emission standards and the FLs and FEs which service Canary Wharf, were built in a zero-carbon manufacturing facility, are important to our customers here. It also helps that the new trucks look very much in keeping with the image of this prestigious site.”