Weighing in with intelligent thinking

On-board weighing equipment is evolving into a powerful management tool as operators utilise the data to enhance their business. Dean Stiles reports

In the waste industry, on-board weighing equipment is more than a device to ensure legal compliance - by using the weight data, it can become a powerful management tool. This is according to Mark Evans, business development manager at RDS Technology. "The biggest single technology step we are seeing is the efficient transfer of load data to management systems ... taking that raw data and integrating that into the back office," he says.

"FData from on-board weighing equipment generated by an approved weighing system can be processed and used for invoicing purposes as well as stock control. Equipment must meet relevant EU and local trading standards ¬- UK OIML R51 and R76 (Class IIII) standards or the new pan-European MID Class Y (b).

RDS's on-board vehicle weighing range includes weighers for loading equipment, such as fork lifts or loading shovels, typically at transfer stations. In conjunction with CC Software, it provides systems that can transfer loading data to an office PC via the integral SD card port or by telemetry.

John Luffman Trading, a civil engineering and recycling contractor, uses a RDS system on two sites in Somerset where it handles disused railway track ballast for resale. Vehicles enter the sites to be loaded with aggregate and once the loading cycle is complete, the job data is automatically transmitted back to the base unit and a weigh ticket printed for the driver to take upon exit.

On small and self-contained sites such as Luffman's, this set-up avoids time delays at a weighbridge and cuts out unnecessary vehicle movements due to over- or under-loaded vehicles. The technology also avoids any expensive infrastructure costs, such as weighbridges, when moving onto site. John Luffman says: "We find the software easy to use and it helps us to analyse the load data quickly and efficiently."

Using weigh data as management information is behind the huge potential in the skip market for on-board weighing systems, according to Chris McAllister, global product manager for transport and logistics products at Avery Weigh-Tronix.

"Skips tend to be charged by size rather than their weight, and at the point of collection. This can give the industry problems with overloading since human nature makes customers want to squeeze extra waste in. The result is often an overloaded and unsafe lorry, or the operator having to return with a larger vehicle," he explains.

But it is not just the need for legal compliance driving the market for on-board weighing equipment. "Skip collections of materials for recycling are of the few points where little weighing takes place at the collection point. Increasingly, people producing waste, and especially those producing metal waste, are concerned about it being collected and weighed elsewhere," McAllister points out.

He adds: "At the moment collection is mostly on a volume basis, but everywhere else there is a cost and weight element. We believe that by giving operators the opportunity to weigh on a trade stamped device they will be able to offer more competitively-priced collection services because they can charge accurately for what they collect."

McAllister believes the skip collection market is becoming increasingly sophisticated. "At the moment collections, apart from those for waste plasterboard and asbestos, are generally volume based. The customer does not see the weight of the collection. We think as competition grows we will see weigh tickets offered to customers on collection. Weighing may enable operators to reduce collection costs because they know they are going to make money at a rate per tonne whereas they cannot be sure with volume based collections."

But for the most part, operators avoiding axle and vehicle overloads is still the prime motivator for using on-board weigh equipment, says Phil Bridge, sales office manager at Red Forge. And it is not a problem restricted to multi-axle refuse collection vehicles.

"The biggest growth area for us is with 3.5 tonne vans and chassis," Bridge says. "The Vehicle & Operator Services Agency targets its enforcement effort and these vehicles are subject to more stops because they are so easily overloaded. A cage tipper body has a huge volume and loaded with the wrong material will soon be overweight."

Most operators specify equipments on purchase although retrofitting, especially on smaller vehicles, is straightforward. These systems are the most economic means available of reducing the risk of prosecution and subsequent fines, maintains Bridge.

"Increasing numbers of fleet users are specifying vehicle telemetry systems to monitor vehicle load condition remotely. This allows for data capture of overloads, with in-built damping to only indicate true overloads if the condition is such for a given length of time. This avoids false readings caused by sloped or uneven ground."

The depressed state of the commercial vehicle market has meant that much of the growth in on-board weighing devices has been from the retrofit market with devices like those for skip weighing. On-board weighing equipment is slowly changing from 'nice to have equipment' to 'must have' equipment and as operators start to order new trucks in greater volumes, suppliers expect to see on-board weighing equipment fitment become a standard specification.

Dean Stiles is a freelance journalist


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