Trash collection takes a heavy toll on a garbage truck. It is an extremely demanding job and working conditions can be severe. The intense stop-and-go activity of running the routes combined with working in a landfill can wreak havoc on the condition of the trucks. Garbage trucks have to withstand rigorous use on a daily basis and without proper maintenance, they are much more likely to break down. Keeping garbage trucks working properly requires regular routine maintenance which can be both time consuming and costly, however it can not be stressed loudly enough that proper maintenance of the truck fleet is one of the foundations for profitability.
A good preventative maintenance program can stop minor problems from becoming major problems. And a disciplined and regularly scheduled truck maintenance program can be the biggest safeguard against breakdowns.
Establishing a well-run preventative maintenance program will actually keep your overall maintenance costs down by reducing expensive repairs and downtime, so let’s explore some of the fundamental steps for performing basic maintenance on your garbage truck.
1. Setting Up Your Preventive Maintenance Program
Preventive maintenance (PM) consists of scheduled servicing, inspections, and vehicle repairs to prevent potential problems and to proactively reduce truck breakdowns. To successfully launch a preventive maintenance program, you’ll first need to determine the metrics to track for your trucks, including such criteria as mileage, engine hours, fuel usage, operating hours, or other metrics. Decide which metrics will activate your preventive maintenance schedule, such as bringing the truck in for service every 150 or 300 engine hours.
A typical service schedule follows this routine:
A Service: Every 150 hours grease chassis/body and inspection
B Service: Every 300 or 450 hours grease/body, inspection, and oil change. Replace fuel and oil filters and inspect/replace air filters
Hydraulic Service: Every 500 to 1,800 hours replace the hydraulic filter, breather, suction and fluid (or run through a filtering system)
Service @ 2,500 – 3,000 hours: Allison transmission filter and fluid change, and engine valve adjustment
Service @ 4,500 hours – DPF cleaning
Annually: DOT inspection, coolant & filter, rear end gear oil, manual transmission gear oil
Please be aware that component manufactures may give different intervals for PM work, so it is recommended that you refer to the chassis/body/engine/trans manufacture’s PM interval recommendations which are available in every operator’s manual.
2. Develop a Preventive Maintenance Service Checklist
A PM service checklist should contain required inspections, and other safety tasks, including but not limited to:
• Changing engine oil and filters
• Transmission fluid
• Inspection of cooling and fuel systems
• Inspecting engine and transmission mounts
• Inspecting and changing (if necessary) drive shafts, U-joints, belts, and hoses
• Inspecting electrical system components
• Inspecting the brake system and replacing brake shoes, brake drums as needed
• Inspecting the steering and suspension system
• Inspecting tires, wheels, and rims
• Replacing tires as needed
• Inspecting the exhaust system
• Evaluating the condition of the undercarriage and frame
• Inspecting both interior and exterior lights
• Replacing the windshield wipers and filling windshield fluid
• Inspecting seat structures and seatbelts
• Greasing the body and chassis
• Checking for fluid leaks
• Checking hydraulics and related parts
• Checking packer body functions and addressing wear points
3. Develop Driver Inspection and Reporting Systems
Keeping a garbage truck in good shape starts with the driver. They are your first line of defense when it comes to fleet maintenance. Drivers are required by law to perform daily inspections and do a walk around the truck each day before starting and ending their route. They are required to complete pre-trip and post-trip inspections.
Drivers should be provided a checklist and monitor the following:
• Vehicle safety systems and parts, such as oil coolant and other fluid levels. Tires, lights, windshield wipers, the braking system, horn, steering, etc.
• Vehicle operating behavior, such as rough idling, excessive engine blow-by, soft brakes, etc.
• Truck body and interior, such as mirrors, the condition of the seats, seatbelts, etc., including any damage to glass, gauges, body panels, paint, or anything else noticed upon use of the vehicle
• Miscellaneous items, such as the radio operation, heating and air conditioning malfunctions, etc.
A good driver knows their truck and can often pick up on subtle signs during the collection route. They should take note and report on any potential concerns noticed before, during, and after their route.
You might even consider putting into place an incentive program for the drivers to keep their trucks clean and in good running condition. It can also improve company morale.
4. Refuse Body Maintenance
The garbage packer body is the lifeline of the garbage truck. A garbage body that is in good operating condition means better efficiency, higher productivity and greater profitability.
The continual pounding that a garbage body takes puts a lot of stress on its mechanisms. There’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of wear-and-tear. Poor maintenance, inadequate lubrication or greasing will result in cylinder failure, metal-on-metal parts and premature damage.
Areas of focus include forks, arms, blades, slides, rollers, broken pins, loose mounting bolts and more. Routine maintenance and frequent lubrication and greasing are essential and paying attention to these details will help haulers avoid bigger problems. Regularly checking for any cracking or fatigue of metal components is also recommended.
The nature of the garbage truck body, it’s exertion of force and the heavy loads it compacts and carries means that parts will start to wear and become less effective over time. It will need careful and consistent maintenance.
5. Hydraulic System Maintenance
A healthy hydraulic system is an essential component to ensure your truck is performing efficiently. The hydraulic system on a garbage truck includes the pump, PTO, PTO shaft, hydraulic tank, hydraulic fluid filter, high-pressure hoses, valves and cylinders.
You will need to inspect all of these parts routinely. Leaks anywhere in the system can result in your garbage body having less power due to the reduced pressure.
You will also need to periodically check the hydraulic fluid reservoir as sometimes foreign objects can get inside and contaminate the hydraulic fluid. And if a pump or cylinder fails, the oil should always be cleaned or replaced. Make sure to inspect and replace the hydraulic fluid filter regularly and perform consistent checks on all aspects of the hydraulic system. This is important for maintaining and getting the best performance out of your garbage truck body.
6. Engine Emission Maintenance
The importance of preventive maintenance to the emissions systems must be emphasized in the strongest terms. Major repairs to the emissions system can be nearly as expensive as a complete motor replacement, so it is critical to have a proactive PM schedule.
Among the items to look at are the routine examination of the passive and active regeneration history and soot levels at regen. These items that inadvertently cause the motor to consume more fuel or burn fuel poorly ultimately degrade the expensive components in the emissions system. Clutch fans constantly engaged, leaks in the turbo boost system, valves out of adjustment, thermostats stuck open or opening at the incorrect temperature, PTO pumps running unnecessarily all contribute to unnecessary fuel consumption and premature destruction of the DOC and DPF sections of the emissions system.
Furthermore, DEF filters not being changed on a schedule, DEF dosers not being cleaned on a schedule and DEF pumps not being allowed to purge or power down can cause premature problems with the SCR section, unnecessary road calls and huge repair bills.
7. Brakes & Tires
Brakes need to be checked regularly because the constant stopping of the truck on the route creates excess wear and tear. The brakes will need special attention and most likely need to be replaced more often.
Tires should also be inspected every day. Tires are one of the most critical elements on a refuse truck since they haul very heavy loads (10 to 15 tons or more). Worn tires can lead to increased braking distances and reduced steering control. Before heading out on the route, make sure the tire pressures are good and the tread depths are above legal minimums.
8. Keeping Your Trucks Clean
The build-up of debris or trash behind the blade can prevent it from working effectively. Cleaning behind the packer blade which will help prolong the life of the body. You should clean out any debris behind the packer blade after every shift as bits of garbage can get stuck there and cause issues. And you should always make sure you check for signs of damage as you clean.
Cleaning your garbage trucks regularly inside and out, may not make them run better, but it’s good for company morale, branding and image.
9. Good Garbage Truck Maintenance Means A Better Running Business
Trash collection is an unforgiving industry and operators who ignore regular truck maintenance run a much greater risk of having their trucks break down while on a route. Truck breakdowns mean missed stops and the creation of a whole host of problems including very unhappy customers, as well as strain the morale of the collection crew. Breakdowns extend a long and physically exhausting workday. If breakdowns become commonplace, you can expect high driver and laborer turnover.
People expect to have their garbage collected on time and according to schedule, and in the long run, performing preventative maintenance will save you money and reduce downtime. It comes with a cost, but it is far less than the cost of a vehicle that won’t run and a pack of angry customers.
Regular garbage truck maintenance helps keep your trucks on the route and making money.
What Is Your Garbage Truck Costing You?
Proper fleet management will help you get the most out of your equipment. Additionally, a very important part of the process is to routinely monitor and analyze your maintenance and repair costs to determine what your vehicles are costing you. And if your truck is running poorly and costing you money it may be time to find a replacement.
Trucks & Parts specializes in low mileage, properly maintained garbage trucks. Many of our trucks come from municipalities and other government agencies with outstanding maintenance programs. Our used garbage trucks offer greater productivity, a better ROI and our customers will attest to their incomparable quality.
If you are in the market for a used garbage truck and want to learn more about our trucks and get more tips on proper fleet maintenance, Trucks & Parts is here to help. Visit Trucks & Parts or contact one of our salespeople today.