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Bloomington Adds Smart Technology To Garbage Trucks

Bulk waste collection
Bloomington Public Works Director Jim Karch says the department hopes to incorporate its smart truck technology with its brush and bulk waste collection in the future.

Bloomington's garbage trucks are getting smarter.
The city is adding computers, cameras and sensors to its solid waste vehicles as part of a smart technology overhaul.

The city is contracting with Routeware, a software company in the waste industry, to install the software on each of the Public Works Department’s garbage trucks.

Jim Karch
Credit Eric Stock / WGLT
Bloomington Public Works Director Jim Karch said new smart truck technology will save the department through more efficient trash routes.

Public Works Director Jim Karch said the technology will make routes more efficient. He said that will save wear-and-tear on vehicles and free up time for drivers to handle other tasks.

“Already, we are finding this rerouting and making the tweaks in the route to be more efficient,” Karch said. “It’s already been helping us even to drop a truck That’s allowed us to be able to drop a truck, that’s allowed us to be able to reduce some of the time. That helps our drivers, it frees up more labor.

“Those are the kinds of things that really help the city.”

Karch said the cameras record photos and video of each stop to determine whether a pickup occurred and show whether they were any issues with a particular stop.

He gave an example where one resident called the department to complain their trash wasn’t collected on the designated day.

“We are able to even pull up the location when we went there and said ‘We are apologizing that you were not collected, but we did go to that site. This photo does show the cart wasn’t out,’” Karch said.

He said the trash haulers could be showing up later than usual for a few weeks as they build a database for each stop.

He said the smart technology in the future will enable the city to more accurately track where bulk waste and brush needs picked up, by enabling trash haulers to mark those locations using the software.

He said the software is similar to what many private trash hauling companies are using.

Bloomington paid about $56,000 for the Routeware software, plus an ongoing monthly charge of $3,400 for data storage, service fees and support and a one-time fee for travel and expenses up to $6,000.

Deficit erased 

The city has erased a $1.1 million shortfall in its solid waste fund over the last year  by eliminating free regular waste pick up and raising trash fees. The fund ended the last budget year on April 30 with a projected surplus of $327,000.

Karch said the department wants to build up a reserve in that fund to pay for equipment.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.