Does Heil’s EuroCycler make light work of kerbside loads?

In the third of LAWR's Road Test series, we travel up to Scotland to put Heil Europe's EuroCycler recycling vehicle through its paces to see how it performs on the job. Dan Gilkes reports

Recycling is a growing business, of that there is little doubt. However the speed of that growth, particularly the adoption of recycling initiatives by householders, can involve some crystal ball work for fleet managers. Specifying a fleet of vehicles, or in some cases just a single vehicle, can have big implications further down the line, as collection volumes fluctuate and demands change. Acquire a vehicle now and you will probably be living with it for the next five to seven years. It therefore needs to be right first time.

East Renfrewshire Council, just outside Glasgow in Scotland, has a varied fleet of refuse and recycling collection vehicles, at least varied in terms of sizes and capacity. Transport manager Gordon Moffat is increasingly basing the refuse collection fleet on just one chassis manufacturer and one body supplier – Volvo and Heil Europe.

The latest addition to the fleet is a Heil EuroCycler recycling body on a Volvo FM9 6×2 chassis. Though relatively new to these shores, the EuroCycler has been well proven in North America. East Renfrewshire already runs two 18-tonne two axle trucks with Terberg Kerbsider bodies and a 7.5-tonne tipper on recycling work. However with 37,500 households and more than 90,000 residents to serve, the council decided the time was right to add a larger vehicle to the recycling fleet.

The EuroCycler is used to collect paper, and glass and tins in its two separate compartments. The truck can be loaded from both sides, making collection far faster than with the single-sided Kerbsider trucks. However before opting for the EuroCycler, East Renfrewshire worked with Heil to tailor the design to its own needs.

Versatility was required

Moffat, along with cleansing and recycling manager Laurence Christie, wanted greater versatility from the machine, including the possibility to lift wheeled household bins. On the near side of the vehicle the paper and co-mingled hoppers, which are smaller than the fixed hoppers on the offside, can be removed by operatives.

Two bins can then be wheeled into place and lifted into the body chambers on the comb lift. Once the bins are removed, the hoppers can then be lifted back on to the combs and the truck carries on its round. Driver Mark Kirklane was originally sceptical about the truck, but has worked with Heil to produce the ideal vehicle for his needs.

“Heil actually asked me, as a driver, how I would like it,” he says. “I’m definitely happy with it now. Being able to load on both sides gives us the speed that we need.”

Indeed, despite its size, the Volvo/Heil combination has proven particularly versatile.

With a rear steering axle it is able to get around all of the streets in the council’s area.

And as the EuroCycler lifts its hoppers virtually within the width of the vehicle, it can actually load in places where the smaller trucks with the Kerbsider loaders struggle for lifting space.

The Volvo packs a 300hp engine, providing plenty of power to keep moving on the round. With the EuroCycler body it tips the scales at 15,940kg, leaving a potential payload of more than 10 tonnes. This is particularly important to Moffat, who is keen to ensure that his trucks are never overloaded.

The EuroCycler body simultaneously separates and tips into two horizontally split body chambers, which can be compacted and unloaded independently. The body is 7.7m long and has a total capacity of 25.3m3, split 11.6m3 in the top compartment and 13.7m3 in the bottom.

Achieving a good balancing act

East Renfrewshire uses the upper compartment for glass and tins and the lower for paper, keeping the potential centre of gravity low down for improved safety when fully laden.

When one or other chamber is full the lifts will automatically cut out and an audible warning sounds, to let the operatives know that the truck needs to emptied. “This gives me almost eight tonnes of paper and glass, which is tremendous,” says Kirklane.

The body compartments auto compact when the lift mechanisms return to the lower position, and the truck will pack while on the move. Each lift has a 450kg capacity, easily enough to lift the 0.6m3 hoppers, even when full of wet paper. And a lift cycle time of just 14 seconds means that the truck is never left standing for long. A large box mounted on the outside of the rear of the body allows the team to carry spare collection bags and boxes for residents.

When the truck returns to the East Renfrewshire depot, it is weighed in to get a full load weight. The paper is then tipped and the truck reweighed to get accurate figures for the two collections, before the glass is then tipped.

Optional configurations

East Renfrewshire has opted to have the Heil body mounted on a conventional Volvo chassis, however it can be mounted to a low floor cab truck if desired. Moffat has specified the Volvo with a diagonally mounted twin passenger seat, which makes it easier for the two loaders to get in and out along the round.

“We’re 100% Volvo now,” says Moffat. “Over the past five years we’ve specified Volvo for everything 12 tonnes and over.”

This is mainly due to the close proximity of the dealer just two miles from the council’s yard, and a two-year service deal that comes with each truck.

“We don’t carry spare vehicles, we have to have a high quality fleet,” says Christie. “We can’t afford to have downtime.”

It’s a similar story at the rear of the vehicle, with high service levels a priority when purchasing.

“We’re going 100% Heil because of the service,’ says Moffat. “If we phoned Heil now and they weren’t here today, they’d be here at 6am tomorrow – they’ve proved their level of service. We get a very good warranty as well.”

He is also impressed with the way in which Heil has been able to modify its design to meet the council’s needs: “We had to get Heil to build us a truck with the bin lifters”.

Warranty periods

East Renfrewshire tends to keep its vehicles for around five years. With that in mind, the Heil body has a three-year warranty and a five-year structural warranty, to provide full peace of mind. That said, the council does have its own service engineers who carry out day-to-day service and maintenance work on the whole fleet of vehicles. Other than emergency work, Heil carries out a full annual inspection of the bodies prior to the Christmas holidays.

The combination of a rear steer 6×2 chassis, with virtually the manoeuvrability of a two axle truck, along with the double side loading and the ability to lift bins, has given East Renfrewshire a highly versatile vehicle.

At present the truck works a single shift, five days a week. However the EuroCycler has the capacity to increase its collections as demand for recycling grows. Yet the vehicle also retains the ability to carry out regular bin lifting duties if necessary.

>Dan Gilkes is a freelance road tester

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