OPERATOR CORNER: A Chinese operator sings the praises of Volvo’s A40D articulated hauler
by Michele Travierso
The Shanghai Laogang landfill, operational since 1989, is the largest landfill in China and site of one of the largest landfill gas-to-energy projects in Asia (see page 16). Operated by Shanghai Old Port Garbage Disposal Co Ltd, the landfill is a joint venture between the French company Veolia and the municipal government.
Thanks to their reliability, four Volvo A40D articulated haulers on site will eventually be joined by more Volvo machines as other equipment reaches the end of its working life − this is a place where machines grow old fast. But the Volvo haulers come into their own in slippery conditions where other trucks find it difficult to operate.
Operator Xu Nong Ming collects soil with his Volvo hauler to cover the growing mountain of garbage dumped by trucks arriving at the rate of one every 30 seconds to help contain the waste and its leachates. The Volvo haulers are also used to move the leachate itself − up to five loads a day − and sometimes the actual waste.
Even when the wheels sink into the mud, the operator can engage and disengage different drive combinations while on the move.
“It also helps that it has a high vehicle base,” says Xu, who started driving at the Laogang landfill in 2005.
Xu − surnames come first in China − began his career in the military, which is where he learned to drive. “I joined up in December 1993 and served in Hangzhou,” he says. “It’s safer working with Volvo haulers,” he adds with a smile.
A jovial 45-year-old local, Xu hails from Pudong, a large area of the Shanghai municipality east of the Huangpu River. Until 20 years ago, Pudong played underdeveloped second fiddle to Shanghai’s Puxi, the area west of the river and site of the old town. Today it is the newest, shiniest, skyscraper-filled part of the city, home to the stock exchange and other financial institutions as well as the international airport and, south of it, the Laogang landfill where Xu works.
In his spare time, Xu is an aficionado of mah-jong, the popular Chinese game of skill and strategy played with numbered tiles. Played in groups of four, either indoors or more often than not at the side of the road on improvised tables, mah-jong inevitably attracts groups of onlookers. Xu also enjoys fishing in his free time and says he eats his own catch, although he admits: “I haven’t caught a big fish yet, only small ones.”
Xu’s standard eight-hour workday starts at seven in the morning. “When we reach the site, we check the equipment, and monitor and conduct fleet repair and maintenance,” he says. The rest of the day is usually spent humming along the dirt tracks that circle the landfill, collecting and moving the soil used to cover the latest fresh layer of garbage.
Xu is a big fan of the hauler’s superior off-road performance. “Even fully loaded, the A40D never gets stuck in the mud,” he says. The wide-base tires give low ground pressure and good off-road mobility. “Even when the wheels sink into the mud, its all-wheel drive and large tires get it moving easily.”
Coming from the army, Xu did not find the newer haulers used at Laogang as complicated as he had feared. “I thought the machine would be harder to operate because it is fully automated. However, with the articulated steering, it’s actually easier.”
He’s been won over by the Volvo machine: “In terms of carrying capacity, utility and efficiency I would choose the Volvo for its sturdiness.”