The Best Software for Monitoring your Garbage Truck Routes

May 4, 2021

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Key Takeaways

Route efficiency is top of mind for managers with fleets that offer waste collection. Fleet management solutions offer route optimization features. They give businesses more visibility into their entire operations. The best software for monitoring your garbage truck routes should include live GPS tracking, fleet communications, and features that embed safety into workflows.

When people think of garbage collection trucks, they don’t always associate them with innovative technology. But like other industries, the recycling and waste industry is undergoing a digital transformation. Industry leaders are looking towards technology to improve how they gather, sort, and recycle waste. 

Smarter garbage trucks are one part of that transformation. Fleet managers are learning how innovations like fleet telematics, sensors, cameras, and global positioning systems (GPS) can streamline operations. In particular, fleet management software has become a go-to tool for monitoring and improving garbage truck routing. Beyond increasing visibility into routes, telematics software gives businesses a comprehensive view into fleet operations. This functionality has helped it gain traction.

Want to know more about how fleet software helps monitor garbage truck routes? In this guide, you'll learn how software aids garbage truck route efficiency, what features to look for in a solution, and tips for selecting software.

How does fleet software optimize garbage truck routes and more?

An integrated fleet management solution, like Samsara, captures and connects fleet data in one place. That helps you increase safety and efficiency. Waste collection businesses can use fleet management software to:

1. Gain visibility into how a fleet is performing

It’s not uncommon for fleet managers to use whiteboards and spreadsheets to track drivers and routes. This method tracks  who is  working, and the vehicle used, but little else is known without contacting  the driver.  With a comprehensive telematics solution that uses  live GPS tracking, fleet managers can get valuable information with a few clicks. You can locate haulers, check traffic conditions, and know when a vehicle needs servicing. Vehicle telematics software provides greater visibility makes it easier to spot inefficiencies and identify gaps in safety.

2. Improve service responses and customer satisfaction

Customers are looking for convenience and options in their waste collection providers. With the benefit of  full operational visibility, you can respond to unexpected requests faster. For example, you  can reroute and the driver nearest to a customer for a pickup. If the request involves a different vehicle, you can assign the work order to a driver closest to the yard. Or, send a driver at the landfill who is finishing their usual route. Visibility offers more options. You can respond to customers with confidence, providing  more accurate arrival times. Faster responses and transparent communications help you build trust and satisfaction with customers.

3. Increase safety

Garbage collection consistently ranks as one of the most dangerous jobs. Keeping haulers and citizens safe is a huge priority for the waste collection service industry. Fleet management systems help organizations take proactive steps to keep drivers safe. For instance, fleet managers can incorporate risk prevention measures into workflows. Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), computer vision, and dual-facing dash cameras help to coach safe behavior in  drivers. Proactive alerts notify drivers of harsh driving behaviors and help enforce safety policies. 

4. Fuel and vehicle efficiency

Garbage trucks are heavy; fully loaded, they can weigh more than 60,000 pounds. When combined with inefficient routes with frequent engine idling, you can see why they get terrible gas mileage—an estimated 2 or 3 miles per gallon. But, by combining fleet tracking systems like Samsara with a vehicle’s power take-off (PTO), you can identify idling in a parked vehicle versus with PTO engaged. Knowing your fleet’s true idling times helps you separate wasteful idling that eats up fuel with work idling that is normal for collection.

Software features to look for when improving garbage truck routes

Fleet management software that’s both easy to use and robust can be invaluable for monitoring waste collection routes. When considering your options, look for the following features:

GPS tracking

This indispensable tool provides visibility into the exact locations of your vehicles. It doesn't matter if it's across municipalities, towns, or regions. Use GPS tracking to locate vehicles quickly, figure out which drivers are closest to pickups, and help drivers avoid traffic.

But not all GPS trackers are made the same. Many trackers only offer “breadcrumb trail” tracking, where a vehicle’s location updates every five to ten minutes. Real-time tracking like Samsara’s offers live-to-the-second visibility into locations. This is especially helpful when you set up geofencing, a virtual “fence” of a pre-defined boundary. Geofences provide live alerts when a vehicle enters or exits an area. They’re often used to detect theft and track driver productivity.

Pro tip: Ask routing software providers how often their GPS trackers update a vehicle’s location. Find out whether they offer real-time vehicle location tracking.

Route performance

Efficient routes lead to lower fuel costs and greater productivity. Fleet managers should look for solutions that analyze past route performance. For instance, after drivers complete routes, you can compare planned routes vs. the actual routes taken. This helps you determine if haulers are staying on track or if you need to adjust routes. Analysis like this is helpful when operating in high-density areas with lots of traffic and stops.

Pro tip: Look for a fleet management solution that is easily customizable. Route planning for a waste collection fleet differs greatly from a freight delivery fleet, so the platform you choose needs to be flexible.

Fleet communications and mobile app

Managing a fleet with little more than two-way radios is inefficient and inaccurate.. Modern solutions help teams respond to changing situations fast. Communication tools like mobile apps keep haulers in touch with home offices. A driver app can notify them of route changes, new work orders, or messages. Dispatchers can reach drivers in-app via two-way messaging features or push updated routing. With centralized communication channels, teams can mobilize quickly. This speed improves customer service and satisfaction.

Pro tip: Some fleet management solutions come with tablets for drivers to use. Others offer bring-your-own-device (BYOD) flexibility like Samsara’s Driver App, which helps drivers meet demanding schedules.. That means drivers can use it with any smartphone or tablet. When looking at BYOD solutions, make sure they offer apps for both iOS and Android devices.

Streamlined workflows

Adhering to tight schedules requires maximum productivity. Streamlining task completion helps manage compliance, ensures customer satisfaction, and keeps costs down. Look for solutions that help create, manage, and automate workflows. In Samsara, fleet managers might create mandatory digital workflows. For example, drivers must complete DVIRs via mobile app before starting their route. Or workflows prompt haulers to sanitize vehicles and clean at the end of work days. Simple workflow automation like these helps businesses maintain compliance.

Pro tip: Tailor your drivers’ experience with diverse configuration options and open APIs. When businesses connect all software systems and tools, they can simplify administrative tasks. Centralizing operational data in one place makes information accessible to everyone, anywhere. 


Your software solution should enhance and enforce existing safety policies. For example, traffic and weather map overlays help dispatchers identify potentially unsafe road conditions. Safety workflows contribute to better coaching. In particular, artificial intelligence-powered dash cams are a valuable tool for improving fleet safety. By capturing road footage, fleet managers can review video evidence and help safety managers coach drivers to avoid risky behaviors like tailgating and rolling stops. Look for solutions that offer preventative in-cab alerts that provide immediate notifications. This allows drivers to receive feedback and coaching from safety managers in real time.

Pro tip: With an all-in-one solution that combines dash cams with GPS you get more comprehensive safety. GPS tracking is essential for a timely response in the event of a breakdown so dispatchers can reroute a driver to the nearest shop or send tow trucks to their exact location.

Fuel consumption

Route efficiency and fuel consumption go hand in hand. When you work on improving one, you nearly always affect the other. By analyzing fuel consumption, you can reduce costs by planning more efficient routes. You can also sort between true idle times where fuel is wasted and when PTO is engaged, where trucks are idling but getting the job done.

Pro tip: Look for tools that track fuel consumption and idling time. Fuel reports identify where drivers use the most fuel and where they’re idling the most. Managers can view how efficient vehicles are per gallon.

Reports and data insights 

In implementing a fleet management system, businesses gain access to a flood of data. But how does the software interpret and analyze that data so fleet managers can turn it into action? Look for solutions that provide pre-built and customizable reporting options. Reports should cover safety, usage, efficiency, and more so you know where to maximize route productivity. Also, look for reports that make it easy to compare planned versus actual route data so it’s easy to see where you can optimize routes.

Pro tip: Does the software enable you to easily create custom reporting? Solutions like Samsara offer simple drag-and-drop report builders with 80+ kinds of data for you to work with. You can build and customize reports to analyze data in new ways, and share in any format. Reporting tools should allow you to tailor your experience without needing technical expertise.   

How to choose software for waste management fleets

There are lots of fleet software providers in the market. Finding the right partner that fits all your business needs is key. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re evaluating routing software.

  • Integrated solution: Vehicle telematics goes beyond GPS. For example, Samsara’s solution has electronic logging device (ELD) capabilities, engine diagnostics, a built-in WiFi hotspot, driver workflows, advanced analytics, and more.


  • Ease of use: The best technologies make life easier. When tasks are too complicated to complete or if the software is not intuitive to use, people won’t want to use it. For instance, Samsara’s plug-and-play hardware gets you up and running in minutes, not hours. Take advantage of fleet software trials so you can test the solution’s ease of use for everyday tasks and functions.

  • Integrations: Will the software easily integrate with existing tools your organization already uses? Connecting fleet management solutions to OEM applications and other common third-party solutions—such as HR and accounting software—increases visibility. The Samsara App Marketplace offers turnkey integrations where you can connect and capture all your real-time data for your operations.

  • Support: How will this provider help you become successful? Aside from normal customer service channels, how do they provide help? Is there onboarding or training help? Are there self-service or knowledge base options so you can find what you need fast? With Samsara, you get 24/7 support and customer service. There’s also a robust Help Center, guides, video library, and informational webinars on-demand.

  • Additional services and products: What else does the software provider offer? Do they offer other software solutions, services, or hardware? Whom do they partner with? You may not need these other offerings now, but it’s good to understand the provider's breadth and depth of knowledge in your field. For example, Samsara centralizes all business operations data on one unified platform. Beyond routing, the Connected Operations Platform helps teams with video-based safety, equipment monitoring, site monitoring, sustainability, security, and more.   

How Athens-Clarke County optimizes routes and improves efficiency

The Collections Division in Athens-Clarke County keeps streets safe and beautiful for over 10,000 residential customers. This lean team of 30 tackles trash and recycling collection, leaf and limb services, and compost for the county’s Solid Waste Department. Route efficiency and safety are always top of mind for staying on schedule and reaching all homes. 

Their fleet includes automated waste collection trucks with extendable side-loading arms. By design, trucks must run on both sides of the road to collect trash. This poses unique routing challenges for the team. How can they create routes with minimal safety hazards such as turning around or backing up?

Athens-Clarke County turned to Samsara to help become more effective for their residents. Using Samsara Vehicle Gateways and the Samsara dashboard, they got a bird’s-eye view of challenging routes. By monitoring and analyzing route data, Collections Administrator Korey Jones cut turnarounds, going from 15 turnarounds to six. The team also discovered that by cutting down turnaround hazards, they also executed their routes in less time. “Samsara allows us to navigate routes more efficiently to avoid unsafe driving behaviors and get the job done quicker,” said Jones.

Aside from improving their routes, the Solid Waste Department also 

  • Consolidated three of their fleet technology vendors into one system.

  • Created digital workflows that cut paperwork, reduced manual errors, and decreased unsafe DVIRs by 56%.

  • Improved average driver safety scores by 15% in 6 months.

Athens-Clarke County has become a county government leader. By leveraging Samsara’s real-time GPS tracking, routing and dispatch tools, and using safety features, they are setting the standard for public fleets. By improving their services’ efficiency and safety, they make a vast positive impact within their community.

Read Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department’s full story here.

The Samsara Connected Operations Platform helps fleet managers monitor routes, reduce costs, improve safety, and increase efficiency across operations. To learn more about Samsara route tracking for waste management vehicles, reach out to get started with a free trial.

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