Kansas City Missouri Rolls Out Tricked Out Trash Trucks — And They're Fuel-Efficient

Mar 2, 2017

The city's new CNG trash trucks include an automated arm on one side, and a 'tipper' on the other for routes with carts.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

New trash trucks decked out with the downtown skyline or sports team logos, will soon be roaming the streets of Kansas City, Missouri.

The four trash trucks are wrapped in four different themes — Kansas City Royals, Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, and a view of downtown Kansas City landmarks.

"There's something about trash trucks," says operation supervisor Donald Finley, who's worked for the city for three decades. "Kids just like it when you go down the street. With the new icons we've got on it, they're really going to be excited. No doubt."   

The city introduced four compressed natural gas (CNG) solid waste trucks Thursday, along with two dump trucks that will be replacing diesel models.

Officials say they offer more safety features, such as lightweight brakes for shorter stopping distances, and they're fuel-efficient. 

Fleet administrator Sam Swearngin says the city is targeting the "gas hogs," the trucks that only average 2.5 to 5 miles to the gallon.  

"The fuel is half the price, and sometimes it's even less than half the price. They put out fewer emissions," says Swearngin. "Kansas City has a low-level ozone problem, like a lot of other big cities, and these trucks are significantly cleaner than diesel." 

The city displayed two new dump trucks, as well four trash trucks, with compressed natural gas (CNG) engines.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The city has been adding CNG vehicles to its fleet since 1996, according to Swearngin, and now has 270. They're transitioning to electric for smaller vehicles and CNG for the larger ones. 

"Through the years, we've learned that the larger the vehicle, the more the payback, the more the benefits," he says, "because that's where compressed natural gas really shines, is in these larger applications."

"I think it's the wave of the future," says John Wood, director of neighborhoods and housing services. Solid waste is part of that department's division. "At some point, maybe we'll be 100 percent gas-free, where we're not actually using gasoline." 

The CNG portion of the vehicles was paid for, in part, by a federal congestion mitigation and air quality (CMAQ) grant. Key Equipment & Supply Company of Kansas City, Kansas, donated the decorative wraps in partnership with the city. 

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter @lauraspencer.