Truck maintenance always has a cost, but performing preventative maintenance will save you money in the long run by keeping your vehicles on the road and reducing downtime for any major repairs or service which could cost you even more.
The solid waste industry is extremely demanding and the garbage collection trucks which operate within this industry face severe working conditions on a daily basis which can wreak havoc on these trucks. Keeping trash trucks on their routes requires regular routine maintenance which can be both time consuming and costly, however, the alterative scenario of an out of commission truck is even more costly.
Time is Money
Regular truck maintenance is the single biggest preventer of unscheduled downtime for sanitation trucks. In an industry where unscheduled downtime can create a whole host of problems with missed route stops and unhappy customers, it is vital that you spend the time to maintain your trucks or you may encounter a number of costly problems in the long run. A well run preventative maintenance program will actually keep your overall maintenance costs down.
A good program starts with regular routine maintenance and how often that should be performed really depends on a number of factors.
Drive Train Maintenance
The drive train of a garbage truck is no different than any other large commercial truck, with an engine, transmission and suspension. Perform routine maintenance procedures as you would with any other similar vehicle. Drivers should be instructed to regularly check the oil, coolant and other fluid levels. Provide a checklist of maintenance items for each truck and make sure it's completed and filled out regularly by whoever is operating the truck at any given time. All too frequently with large operations, drivers will assume someone else has already done this. If everyone assumes someone else is doing the preventive maintenance, then it's not getting done.
Make sure tire pressures are checked every day before trucks go onto their routes. Tires are one of the most critical elements of a refuse truck carrying very heavy loads and must be maintained within proper operating parameters. It's highly advised to have drivers do a “walk around” their vehicle every day before even getting into the cab and starting the engine- always check the tires, fluids, fuel and lights.
The task of keeping a garbage truck in good shape starts with the driver. Drivers should perform daily inspections and perform minor tasks such as cleaning behind the packer blade which will help in prolonging the service life of a truck. An incentive program should be in place for drivers to keep their trucks clean and in good running condition.
Hydraulic System Maintenance
The hydraulic system on refuse trucks includes the pump, hydraulic fluid filter, high-pressure hoses and cylinders. Make sure to inspect and replace the hydraulic fluid filter regularly which is enclosed in a removable housing. The filter helps prevent the hydraulic fluid in the system from being contaminated by foreign materials. We recommend as general practice you replace your hydraulic fluid when you perform a filter change. Ensure to periodically inspect the fittings connecting the segments of hydraulic tubing and hoses throughout the hydraulic system as well as for any damaged lines. Leaks anywhere in the system will result in lower hydraulic pressure which provides less power to operate the hydraulically actuated functions of the truck.
The heart of the system is the hydraulic pump which is powered electronically from the refuse truck engine’s electrical system. A pressure test meter can be connected to the pump to ensure it is operating correctly. Also, just like with the engine oil, periodically check the hydraulic fluid reservoir. Check the color of the fluid for any contamination and make sure there is enough fluid without overfilling. Hydraulic systems work best when all of the individual components are performing at their optimum.
Compactor Body Maintenance
The compactor body is the main feature that distinguishes a garbage truck from any other truck allowing it the ability to pick up and transport large amounts of waste materials. The garbage compactor body requires many moving parts to perform its function making it necessary to frequently check that all lubrication points are adequately greased and oiled. Any squeaking or other irregular sounds can indicate metal-on-metal parts are not properly lubricated which will result in premature damage.
Checking regularly for any cracking or fatigue of metal components on the compactor body is recommended. Regular heavy use without adequate maintenance can lead to weakening of moving parts and in turn incapacitating the truck. The rigorous nature of how refuse trucks are operated can quickly lead to stresses on components. Welding or other temporary repairs can extend the life of these parts, but the best maintenance is to operate the compactor body within the manufacturer’s guidelines.
The best maintenance for your garbage truck begins with a top down approach targeted at regular preventative maintenance. Incentivize drivers and mechanics to keep trucks in good operating condition and limit the amount of downtime caused by major repairs or service.