Parts of a Garbage Truck

by Dennis HartmanUpdated July 08, 2023
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Ildar Sagdejev;

Garbage trucks have evolved from simple trash-collecting wagons to expensive machines that feature complex technology. Modern garbage trucks come in a number of styles, each designed to collect trash under certain conditions. The mechanical systems and specialty garbage truck parts of a garbage truck are what allow collection vehicles to serve this purpose.

From Loadmaster, OEM, and Bayne to McNeilus and Wastequip, there are several names in the waste collection business. Replacement parts for vital machinery such as automated side loader (ASL) hydraulic arms), hydraulic pumps, or cart tippers, or winches can be necessary to keep trash trucks running.

Basic Parts

At the heart of every garbage truck are its basic driving elements. These are the parts common to all trucks, including the frame, engine and wheels. Since a garbage truck or roll off truck is designed to carry heavy loads when full, all of these elements must be heavy duty. Most refuse trucks feature diesel engines and transmissions that allow for a great deal of low-end torque. This means a limited top speed but better hauling ability and overall durability for waste collection.

Garbage trucks also feature a cab of some sort, in which the driver (and, in some cases, other trash collection workers) can sit while the truck is in motion. The cab contains many of the truck's controls, including all of those used for regular driving, though other controls may be placed on the vehicle's exterior for convenience.

Other Parts

Garbage trucks collect trash in a container that usually comprises most of the vehicle's mass, known as the hopper. Hoppers may consist of a single, large open space or a series of compartments for collecting different types of trash. Garbage truck hoppers may also be referred to as compactors in cases where a packer blade is used. The packer blade is used to compress the trash in order to make more space inside the hopper. Packer blades are controlled through a hydraulic system capable of exerting large pressure on the trash. Some modern garbage trucks are able to use their packer blades while driving, so that the trash is compressed between stops leaving room for more to be added. It is the hopper and packer blade that set garbage trucks apart from other types of vehicles or from the multipurpose carts and trucks that preceded the modern garbage truck.

Common Types of Garbage Trucks

Different varieties of garbage trucks feature specific components that allow them to function in a certain type of trash collection. Rear loaders are the most common type of garbage truck and are used in most neighborhoods to collect the garbage bins left at the street by residents. These trucks feature a rear opening to the hopper and sometimes use a hydraulic lift to raise and dump the trash bins into the hopper. This life is often controlled by a series of buttons and levers that are attached to the exterior of the vehicle and can be operated by a trash collector who is in view of the bins being emptied.

Front loaders are often used to collect waste from dumpsters and serve many large buildings or businesses. These trucks feature a form mechanism that raises and lowers in front of the truck's cab. These forks are designed to fit into corresponding holes on the dumpster and raise it over the trick, actually dumping it into the top of the hopper. The forks on a front loader are usually controlled by a joystick located inside the cab.

Other Types of Garbage Trucks

Another type of garbage truck is the side loader, which, as the name implies, feature a hopper that can be accessed through one or more doors on the side of the truck. Recycling trucks, which may include multiple hoppers for different types of pre-sorted waste, are often built in the side loader configuration. Side loaders may include an automatic lift mechanism, like a rear loader, or forks like a front loader.

Still another type of garbage truck is the suction truck, which features a pneumatic tube that acts like a large vacuum cleaner to suck waste out of specially designed containers.

Garbage Truck Safety

Because of its need to be so powerful, the packer blade is the most dangerous part of a garbage truck. Trash collector is routinely listed among the most dangerous occupations, and this is the reason why. Although most garbage trucks come with a series of safety features, and waste management companies require their workers to follow procedures designed to protect their own well-being, accidents resulting in death or dismemberment can result if a worker is caught inside the garbage truck's hopper when the packing blade is actuated. These sort of accidents can be the result of negligence or mechanical error. In some documented cases, homeless people sleeping in dumpsters have been poured into a truck's hopper. Other times, workers are injured while trying to dislodge objects that may become jammed in the truck's packer blade.

Rear-Loading Trucks

In 1938 the Load Packer was introduced by Garwin Industries, which revolutionized the sanitation industry. It was the first true compacting garbage truck. The trucks at that point could carry twice as much as before because they could compact the trash while driving through the city. By the 1950s there were many of these garbage trucks in use, and other manufacturers also started making them. By the late 1950s and early 1960s they started to manufacture industrial-strength compacting trucks. These trucks could handle larger objects and compacted better, allowing them a 25 percent larger load.

How the Compactor Works

The trucks are loaded by sanitation engineers along neighborhood streets. The trash is loaded into a hopper in the back of the truck of rear loaders. Hydraulic cylinders operate the compacting mechanism, which takes the trash out of the hopper and places it into the body of the truck. As more trash is placed into the body, the more it gets compacted. Because the compacting unit is on the outside of the body of the truck, it keeps the trash from falling out of the truck when it is full or moving. When the truck is full the driver takes the trash to the dump. The rear of the truck tilts up like a dump truck and the hydraulic cylinders move the compacting panels out of the way. The trash is then dumped out of the truck and the back hosed out.

Other Types of Garbage Trucks

There have been many variations of the garbage truck since its invention. The front-loading truck has a hopper in the front of the truck at about waist level to the workers. They load into the hopper and it takes the garbage up over the top of the truck and dumps it into the body. It is then compacted and this truck dumps the same as the rear loader. Recycling trucks also come in various versions. Some are side loaders in which the hoppers are on the sides and lift up into the truck. Some have separate hoppers for each type of recyclable material. There is even one type that has a robotic arm that grabs the can from the side of the street, goes up a conveyor, dumps the material and places the can back on the street. This is a similar operation to the commercial garbage bins you see outside of restaurants and other businesses. These trucks normally collect the bin from in front of the truck, lift it over the truck and dump it into the body of the truck. These types of trucks take away the need for more workers.

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