Skip to main content

Voices. Knowledge. Solutions.

Preventative Maintenance Programs Are Critical for Sanitation Vehicles

Large losses involving sanitation vehicles are on the rise, and they have been very costly. Since 2019, the South Carolina Municipal Insurance and Risk Financing Fund has handled sanitation claims resulting in costs of more than $1.7 million.

The majority of the claims have resulted from fires. The damage has occurred from hydraulic line ruptures, fire spreading from another sanitation vehicle close by, electrical issues and trash or debris.

Sanitation vehicles are costly to replace and supply shortages exist. This can negatively impact sanitation operations at the municipality. Although losses will occur, preventative measures can be put into place to avoid costly losses. Routine maintenance can help limit damage during a loss or prevent major problems from occurring. It can also reduce breakdowns and expensive repair costs which will allow the trucks to remain in service. A preventive maintenance program should be in place for all sanitation vehicles including these elements:

Develop a service schedule.

  • The service schedule should be based on metrics such as mileage, engine hours or operating hours.

Create a preventative maintenance service check list. It should include the items required during inspection as well as other safety tasks. It can include these items:

  • Change engine oil filters.
  • Check transmission fluid.
  • Inspect the brake system.
  • Check the hydraulics and related parts.
  • Check for fluid leaks.
  • Replace tires.
  • Grease the body and chassis.
  • Inspect seat belts.

Create a reporting system for drivers to note details from their daily pre-trip and post-trip inspections. Items the driver should monitor include these:

  • The exterior and interior body of the truck.
  • Vehicle fluid levels.
  • Warning lights on the vehicle’s dashboard.
  • Vehicle safety systems such as the brakes, horn and steering.
  • Checking tires for wear and tear, minimum tire pressure and tread depth.

Maintain the body of the truck.

  • Check for cracks in metal components.
  • Frequently lubricate and grease parts.
  • Check the forks, arms, blades, rollers and other parts on a regular basis.
  • Clean the inside and outside of the truck. Cleaning behind the packer blade should take place after every shift.

Perform hydraulic system maintenance.

  • Inspect and clean all parts of the hydraulic system regularly.
  • Repair hydraulic fluid leaks immediately.
  • Replace hydraulic lines on a regular schedule.
  • Replace the hydraulic fluid filter regularly.
  • Inspect all hose fittings for leaks.

Store sanitation vehicles properly.

  • Park sanitation vehicles away from each other to prevent losses to multiple vehicles.
  • Turn off all lights, switches and accessories.
  • Turn off remote battery cutoff switches.

Implementing the preventative maintenance program — and verifying that the inspections are taking place — will allow the sanitation operations to continue without interruption and allow the municipality to get the most use out of the equipment.

For questions about implementing a preventative maintenance program for a sanitation department, contact the Municipal Association Risk Management Services’ loss control staff at