Bin City services the Illawarra region of the NSW south coast and has been owned since 2017 by Dave and Neisha Neall.
Having spent his career until then working on the Port Kembla waterfront, Dave now admits, at the time of the purchase he knew how to drive a truck, but his knowledge of the waste industry was minimal. That said, he could at least perform all of his own repairs and maintenance such as welding repairs on the steel bins.
“Half of anything is you’ve got to know how to do the job and the other half is managing personalities,” says Dave regarding his approach to the business.
In the years since, Dave has developed his understanding of the operation and, having few pre-conceptions, has changed the business in beneficial and imaginative ways.
Within a year of acquiring the business Dave experienced a revelation when he realised how much of the ‘waste’ being tipped into landfill could actually be usefully reclaimed, such as discarded building materials including steel, brick and concrete, plasterboard and timber.
The NSW Government had also recently increased the levy on landfill disposal at the time so Dave saw the opportunity to become involved in recycling by establishing a small yard equipped with a second hand excavator and a skid steer loader. In the period since then the equipment has been replaced with state-of-the-art Volvo machinery including a wheel loader, two new excavators and an additional skid steer loader.
As the demand for Bin City’s waste services increased so did the requirement for trucks to join the three that had come with the purchase of the business.
In addition to those original trucks, Bin City started with 120 bins of various capacities. At the moment, the fleet now numbers seven trucks, there are 12 staff employed and more than 500 bins located around the area.
Dave purchased his first Hino truck, a Hino FG 1628 in 2018.
“Every year since then we have bought a new truck and every truck we have purchased has been a Hino through John at Illawarra Hino,” says Dave.
A Hino FM 2632 was added the next year, followed by two FE 1426 models. Global supply difficulties have meant another brand is to be delivered in mid-2022 for hook lift duties, although Dave says he would have decided upon the new Hino 700 FY eight-wheeler if it had been available.
“I test drove one a few months ago and would have bought that if it wasn’t for the stock delays,” he says. “It’s a fantastic truck for our purposes around town.”
Each skip truck handles at least 12 bins per day, which generally grows to around 60 to 80 jobs per week per vehicle. The skip trucks only transport one to two full bins at a time and the hook trucks only move one bin at a time therefore not performing as many movements as the skip trucks, yet with 23 hook bins deployed there is no shortage of work.
The majority of activity involves handling waste from the demolition and construction aspects of the building industry. Builder clients are as diverse as sole operators constructing decks and pergolas, right up to commercial developments with 20 storey buildings.
During the COVID pandemic the building industry may have slowed but the home renovators – the ‘mums and dads’ as Dave refers to them – delivered an increased balance of demand as the opportunity was taken by many to perform major clean-ups and DIY home improvements. Although essentially the same industry, the transfer of activities underlined the importance of developing a diverse customer base for Bin City.
The increase in ‘residential’ customers resulted in the acquisition of more bins and an additional FE Hino skip truck during lockdowns. During the height of the pandemic Bin City modified its operations to keep people safe from infection non-contact servicing and the policy proved its worth as only one employee was off work for two weeks.
The skip trucks travel around 60,000 kilometres per year, with hook trucks covering slightly less at around 45,000. Dave plans on a seven-to-eight-year rotation of the trucks. The Hino FG is less than five years old and has performed 240,000k trouble-free kilometres.
All servicing is carried out by Illawarra Hino which is an extension of the relationship Dave has with his Hino sales executive John Narbeth.
“With the new Hinos we’re not getting the breakdown time, so we’re not missing that truck while it’s out of action waiting for parts or repairs,” he says. “The technology in the new trucks is great and the drivers like the creature comforts. The older trucks are manuals so we we’re going through clutches, gearboxes and all that sort of thing including wear and tear on the PTOs.”
All of the new Hinos are automatics, either Allison 2500 or 3200 units.
“I’ll never buy another manual,” says Dave. “Partly for the nature of what we do with lots of stop-start clutch work, but not everyone is good at driving a manual, either.”
The current range of equipment caters for a diverse range of waste management applications with site bins, crane bins, hook bins and skips ranging in capacity from 1.5 cubic metres to 30 cubic metres.
“There is more focus on recycling these days, and there is a massive push from the government, and rightfully so,” says Dave. “We are a throw-away society with goods so easily accessible through internet shopping.”
During 2022 Bin City has been preparing its new resource recovery facility located in an industrial section of Port Kembla, which has the capacity to process 30,000 tonnes of waste material per year.
The expansive facility has the benefit of being able to operate in all weather conditions and from a compliance perspective performing the sorting of the materials indoors is a better option and there is less risk involved in the controlled environment.
There is an onsite weighbridge. The intention is to provide a ‘one stop shop’ for waste materials even if there is a problem with them.
“Bin City is licenced to transport hazardous materials such as asbestos and contaminated soil,” explains Dave. “At the new premises we are approved to deal with contaminated loads on site, so we don’t have to take back anything to a client to get them to deal with it which makes it easier for them but there is obviously a different cost aspect.”
Dave still occasionally gets in a truck and drives himself.
“When you’re a driver that’s your office whether for one day or five or six or even seven days per week,” he says. “When I look at the ergonomics of the cabin of a truck, the first thing is the seat and it’s got to be comfortable and it’s got to be set up right.”
Dave says the Hinos have a good turning circle which is important for the work they perform and he is impressed with the Hino’s latest suite of safety features such as lane assist.
The daily tasks carried out are not limited to driving as the drivers have to be competent at operating the cranes as well, often on difficult sites which can be steep, slippery and uneven. Dave personally spends time with new drivers regardless of how much experience they may have.
“Guys who come from outside the waste industry sometimes find it hard to grasp what we do and how fast-paced it can be,” he says. “It’s not just like mainstream truck driving going from A to B. It’s essentially a multi-drop job and likely suits a tilt tray or crane driver used to multi-drops and the use of hydraulics. It’s now good having some younger guys coming through who are keen and eager to learn.”
Bin City uses West-Trans for its bodies and crane equipment. All this equipment is Australian made in Sydney. The cranes are all remote controlled which is a safety advantage as the operator can walk around the site and watch what is happening.
Dave has found that younger drivers can better relate to the buttons on remote control units if they think of them as gaming devices, smoothing any problems when operating the various functions such as the stabiliser legs, the lifting arms and the telescopic function.
“The challenge is having a person who is a driver and an operator as every site we go to can be different so there has to be a risk assessment for each site checking obstacles on the ground such as pits and drains, any brick walls or gates and also overhead power lines,” says Dave. “Then checking people’s properties for gutters, satellite dishes and television antennas.”
Bin City is very active in the community, providing support for local sports and the Bulli Surf Life Saving Club.
The new recycling facility is a big step for Bin City, but Dave is enthusiastic about where the company goes from here.
“We’re pretty excited for the future,” he says. “How we can see to improve our processes, improve our throughput, improve recycling recovery rates and provide an alternate service to our clients.”