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High-tech truck makes one-man show possible

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This April, Balbant Singh started driving the side-loading recycling collection truck, covering the Ang Mo Kio-Toa Payoh sector. He can do his rounds in the recycling truck without having to leave his seat.

FROM his seat in the truck's cabin, Balbant Singh, 61, pays careful attention to the digital screens and camera feeds beside him. Outside, a large metal claw lowers from the side of the truck, prongs adjusting to grip the nearby recycling bin.

The bin is lifted into the air, emptied into the truck, and deposited back down - completing the job without anyone having to be on the ground.

This is in contrast to the conventional recycling collection method, which involves a rear-loading truck, one driver, and two other workers to push the recycling bins to the back of the truck for emptying.

Of his current collection round, Mr Singh says: "This is a one-man-show." The senior driver has worked for 800 Super Holdings since 2006.

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Previously, he drove a 10-wheeler refuse collection truck, equipped with a hydraulic hooklift arm.

This April, Mr Singh started driving the side-loading recycling collection truck instead, covering the Ang Mo Kio-Toa Payoh sector. This is part of a year-long trial under the National Environment Agency's industry transformation map for the environmental services sector.

"I feel better with this one," says Mr Singh. "Everything is controlled from inside - you don't have to come down."

Alhough the refuse truck's arm was similarly controlled from within the cabin, Mr Singh still had to get out of the truck and down to the ground in order to release the hydraulic pipe.

In contrast, he can do his rounds in the recycling truck without having to leave his seat.

The refuse truck's arm was also more straightforwardly mechanical, guided by Mr Singh's manoeuvring.

The controls for the side-loading recycling truck are "a bit more complicated", he says. It took him about a month to learn how to drive this new vehicle, including on-the-job training.

Yet he does receive assistance while driving - from the truck's computer system and sensors.

Two cameras monitor the claw, ensuring that its prongs line up correctly with the small handles on either side of the recycling bin.

A third camera detects a white line painted down the front of each bin, ensuring that it is not off-centre.

If the bin is not hooked up properly, the truck's system will stop the lifting process.

The system can also tell whether the arm's prongs are calibrated to the correct size for the bins that it is handling, and will seek confirmation from the driver if there appears to be a discrepancy.

Mr Singh appreciates the advanced nature of the side-loading collection truck, in contrast to the previous truck he was driving: "This one is more high-tech ... It shows you the lines to follow, so you can adjust."

Brought to you by The Future Economy Council