How long should you keep a garbage truck? The simple answer would seem to be, “as long as possible.”
As an owner, you want to maximize the investment in the truck, especially given that a new garbage truck can range in price from $150,000 to as much as $350,000.
So, what’s the secret to prolonging the lifespan of a garbage truck and maximizing the investment?
Well, the key to longevity for a garbage truck (actually any vehicle for that matter) is a good preventive maintenance program.
The decisions you make initially on setting up a proactive maintenance schedule will not only play a major role in how many years the truck will last but also greatly influence the value of the truck at the time it is sold.
Maintaining your truck is an investment, one that can pay long-term dividends. It can seem like a painful outlay of cash, but a comprehensive and rigorous maintenance program can push the life expectancy of a garbage truck to 10 or 15 years.
But you have to balance the cost of maintaining an aging truck against the benefits of buying a newer used truck or a brand-new truck that is backed by the manufactures warranty.
At a certain point, keeping an older truck doesn’t make sense. The older the vehicle gets, the more maintenance is required on it. An aging truck can turn into a maintenance nightmare and can nickel-and-dime you to death. Worse yet, a broken-down truck means you’ll get behind on your route, and customers complaints will become loud and distracting.
Determining the optimal time when to rotate out your current garbage truck for a new or newer one is a very important decision. It’s a balancing act. Some owners hold onto their vehicles too long. They’d be better off selling or trading the vehicle rather than continuing down the path of extremely high maintenance.
Yes, a garbage truck can last 10 or 15 years with proper maintenance but the next question to ask is, how long does it make sense to keep a garbage truck? And should you continue to maintain an aging truck? Or rebuild it, or sell it? Let’s explore the options.
Rebuilding Your Garbage Truck
A complete rebuild of a garbage truck can be a huge undertaking and cost a hefty sum, often as much as $35,000 to $60,000 or more.
Not too many companies are qualified to tackle such a project but there are a few. A thorough rebuild of a garbage truck is a time-staking project that involves not only chassis repairs but maybe even more importantly, the body and hydraulic repairs. A complete rebuild involves repairing, rebuilding, and or replacing components with new or remanufactured.
The goal is to end up with a used truck that is “like new” and that offers increased reliability and productivity.
There is a benefit of rebuilding a truck when you compare it to the cost of a new truck. But after writing the check to rebuild the truck and after all the downtime, you still end up with a truck that might be using yesterday’s technology, not taking advantage of the latest advances in terms of fuel efficiency, compaction performance or safety.
If you’re thinking of rebuilding your truck, it might be a better option to buy a truck already rebuilt or reconditioned.
Buying or Trading Your Truck for a New or Used Truck
There have been tremendous changes in truck technology in the last few years and buying a new truck can offer a number of benefits including cleaner burning and more efficient engines, safety improvements, driver comfort, software upgrades, and ultimately, the pride of owning a new truck and the image that it projects to your customer base.
When buying a new truck, it’s important to consider these new advances in equipment that could make your trash collection more efficient. New trucks offer paybacks in terms of durability and productivity and are backed by the manufactures warranty.
Buying a new truck allows you to configure the truck to meet your requirements, based upon your route. The process should involve evaluating your route and determining what would work best, a front loader, side loader, or rear loader. Many haulers are reassessing their operations as residential waste volumes continue to increase and routes have changed.
On the residential side, Automated Side Loaders (ASL’s) are gaining popularity. Rear loader garbage trucks are still a good option however and have been the workhorse for residential garbage collection for many, many years. ASL’s are more expensive but they have proven to be faster and more efficient. These side loader trucks keep the worker physically safe and they promote isolated work since the driver does not have to get out of the cab to collect the trash. They reduce overall labor costs too.
The Curotto-Can automated front loader is another innovative solution that can be used to pick up both residential or commercial trash. It is one of the fastest automated systems in the industry and has been proven to deliver a great advantage in productivity.
Garbage trucks are a waste hauler’s most expensive asset and buying a new or used garbage truck is a big decision that requires careful research.
If you’re operating on a tight budget or just trying to preserve as much of your capital as possible, used garbage trucks can be a good economic alternative to buying new ones.
Truck and Body Specifications are Key – Whether it’s a New or Used Truck
The specifications on the truck chassis and the body are important. You need a spec that meets the extreme demands of trash collection and can tackle the particular challenges of your route. For instance, what is the terrain of the route, how many tons of payload will you be loading on the truck, is it a rural or urban route, etc.
When spec’ing a vehicle, it’s important to remember that the lowest-priced equipment does not always provide the lowest costs over the long term.
If you over-spec your truck, you’ll be paying too much. But if you under-spec your truck you‘ll save money upfront but you might end up with a truck that is not strong enough to do the job.
Discuss your needs with the dealership that you are buying from and provide them with the vital info so that they can help recommend the correct spec.
The Bottom Line
There are many factors involved in how long a garbage truck will last and determining the optimal time when to rotate out your current garbage truck for a new or newer used one is a big decision.
A garbage truck can last 10 or 15 years with proper maintenance, but fleet maintenance is a complicated task. Trucks are at the core of every operation and staying aware of the changes in the industry and weighing options carefully is fundamental.
A well-informed owner and a good fleet manager will stay on top of their truck fleet and make educated choices when it’s time to replace a truck.
Thinking long-term is critical. But even the best long-term plans can change. You may think you’re going to keep a truck for only five years, but the economy or events (like the one we’re in now) can abruptly change plans.
When you’re ready to update your fleet with a new or used replacement garbage truck, contact us and we can help you through the process!