Drew Newstrom, fleet services program manager for Fort Lauderdale, Fla., tracks the city’s sweet sweepers and garbage trucks with vehicle telematics.

Feb 05 2024

Local Governments Use High-End Solutions Even for Humble Garbage Trucks

Vehicle telematics optimizes routes, conserves fuel and supports maintenance.

When Fort Lauderdale, Fla., invested in connected vehicle technology, the city equipped police cars and firetrucks with sensors for location tracking and other benefits. But the city also went beyond first responders, deploying sensors in nearly every municipal vehicle — even humble street sweepers and garbage trucks.

The technology provides real-time data on the city’s 1,750 vehicles, from speed and fuel usage to engine diagnostics and driver behavior. In one instance, insight from sensor data even allowed the city to improve its street sweeping operation.

Tourism is a big economic driver for Fort Lauderdale, so it’s important to keep beach areas and entertainment districts clean. Coastal breezes sometimes blow sand onto a road that fronts the city’s beaches. A few years ago, some city staff questioned whether the Public Works Department swept the road, since it was often full of sand, says Drew Newstrom, the city’s fleet services program manager.

Sensors on street sweepers track when brooms are cleaning, and through the software, public works officials proved that they regularly swept the beachside road. But in analyzing the data, they discovered that the sweepers needed to slow down to properly vacuum the sand.

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“They drove too fast — 10 mph when they’re designed for 3 to 5 mph. So, we made adjustments, and now their performance is much improved,” Newstrom says.

Connected vehicles allow cities to enhance city services; address complaints more quickly; and operate smarter, faster and more efficiently, resulting in cost savings. Glendale, Ariz., for example, has installed technology in its garbage trucks to optimize routes.

“They’re doing this to meet customer service goals. They must manage the employees and ensure that they’re doing their jobs. They’ve got to be able to defend themselves if customers call and complain,” says Ken Dulaney, vice president of research at Aragon Research. “It’s an offensive and a defensive solution. It certainly has paid off, both in monetary terms and in terms of public relations.”

READ MORE: IoT technology is at the cutting edge of emergency services.

Internet of Things Supports a Smart Vehicle Fleet

Cities are increasingly investing in vehicle telematics technology, which includes sensors, GPS and video cameras, so that they can track, monitor and better manage their fleets of vehicles and drivers. It’s part of the growing use of smart city technology, which combines Internet of Things (IoT) devices, communications networks and software.

In 2018, Fort Lauderdale’s Fleet Services department installed the Samsara platform in its vehicles, including about 800 police cars, 150 firetrucks, three street sweepers, three garbage trucks, and other vehicles used by Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Parking Services, and other departments.

The gateway device, which supports Samsara’s GPS tracking and sensors, connects to each vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port and tracks real-time location; monitors vehicle health; and measures driving behavior including braking, acceleration and turns.

The city has also added temperature sensors in its Fire Department vehicles to ensure that medication is stored at the proper temperature, Newstrom says.

Drew Newstrom
They drove too fast. So, we made adjustments, and now their performance is much improved.”

Drew Newstrom Fleet Services Program Manager, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The device, built with a 4G LTE cellular connection, transmits data to the city’s IoT fleet management vendor. About 150 city employees access reports, alerts and data visualization dashboards over cloud-based software.

For example, the sensors identify engine fault codes before a problem becomes severe enough to cause a check engine light to go on, allowing fleet services to perform proactive vehicle maintenance, Newstrom says.

“When cars have check engine lights on, that’s when things are bad. But when there’s a fault code in a car, we can get it in and serviced before it gets worse,” he says.

The Samsara software also shows which drivers have excessive idle times. The information allows supervisors to coach those drivers to turn off their vehicles, which has reduced fuel consumption and costs, Newstrom says.

In the past year, Fort Lauderdale has begun installing video cameras in vehicles, and so far, it has equipped 280 vehicles. This provides the city with video evidence when accidents occur or if citizens complain about drivers, he says.

MORE FROM STATETECH: Tampa, Fla., deploys smart vehicle tech.

Connected Vehicles Make Faster Garbage Pickups

In Glendale, Ariz., vehicle telematics technology enables the Glendale Solid Waste Department to provide drivers with turn-by-turn directions so that they can take the most efficient routes. This saves fuel and reduces wear on sanitation trucks and street sweepers, says Scott Givaudan, the city’s solid waste supervisor.

In 2021, the department furnished each driver with an Apple iPad device and installed a telematics device in each of the city’s 60 garbage and recycling trucks that tracks real-time location and monitors engine diagnostics, vehicle speed and other driving metrics.

The telematics devices have built-in cellular modems that transmit data to the vendor’s data center, allowing solid waste staff to access the information on cloud-based software.

Data Points

The technology has sped up and streamlined solid waste operations because it eliminates paper-based manual processes, says Amy Moreno, Glendale’s solid waste superintendent.

In the past, the department issued paper maps to every truck operator. Staffers sometimes drove routes themselves to ensure that drivers didn’t miss any part of their routes. Now that the system is digitalized, foremen can track and manage drivers from their computers.

In fact, truck operators themselves can check their iPad devices to see if they missed service on any streets. If they did, they can go back and pick up the garbage before day’s end, which eliminates customer service calls and prevents them having to return another day, Moreno says.

“This gives operators a tool to be successful in completing their assignments without assistance and with more control over their jobs, which helps with morale,” she says.

Truck operators also use the iPad devices to document and photograph issues, such as cars blocking garbage bins. They also log other city issues they see, such as damaged street signs, potholes and graffiti. Those issues are automatically routed to the appropriate city departments for resolution, Givaudan says.

“Before, we were reactive. Now, we’re proactive,” he says.


The number of miles per day saved by new garbage truck routing software in Glendale, Ariz.

Source: wastedive.com, “How Glendale’s Solid Waste Department Built Its Digital Future,” July 24, 2023

Telematics Improve Customer Service for Sanitation

In California, LA Sanitation & Environment receives up to 7,000 service requests a day for bulk item, e-waste and dead animal pickups that are separate from regular residential curbside collection. LASAN has deployed mobile technology in its refuse trucks and has built an application that integrates with the city’s 311 system to dispatch and collect those special pickups more efficiently.

In 2015, LASAN developed a work order fulfillment app built on Microsoft Azure that takes citizen pickup requests from the MyLA311 system and automatically routes them to the appropriate service area locations. LASAN supervisors in the city’s six service areas divide the requests among their drivers, says Nicolas Tran, the department’s director of systems.

The department has equipped garbage truck operators with Android smartphones so that they can download their day’s assignments each morning. Through a central dashboard, supervisors can add new service requests throughout the day and monitor each driver’s progress.

LASAN also plans to deploy telematic sensors in its collection fleet, which includes about 800 refuse trucks. The department recently piloted sensors systems on 117 collection trucks and will propose to the City Council that the city deploy the technology across its fleet, says Bernadette Halverson, LASAN’s senior environmental engineer and the program manager of the telematics pilot.

“It can help us improve operational efficiency, reduce costs and maintain safety in waste collection,” she says.

In the future, when a truck breaks down or gets held up in traffic, supervisors can check the fleet management software and find the closest refuse truck on the map to help finish the stuck truck’s route, says LASAN GIS Chief Oscar Figueroa.

“The system can tell that this truck went down but still needs to collect another 400 cans on its route. We can reroute the nearest truck to pick up those bins,” he says.

Photography by Josh Ritchie

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