Types of Garbage Trucks

by Rob Wagner

Several types of garbage trucks have been designed based on the commercial and municipal needs of the owner/operator. With the advent of mandatory recycling in most communities, garbage collection has become more complex. Coupled with how garbage is collected and cities' street grid layouts, garbage trucks are designed to perform specific functions. Types included front, side and rear loaders, grapple and recycling tucks, dump trucks and roll-offs.

Front Loaders

Front loaders have automated forks in front of the cab to lift and empty large commercial dumpsters using a set of levers. Once the garbage is emptied in the box, the garbage is compacted. Autocar, for example, produces a 66,000-pound front and rear capacity truck powered by a 350-horsepower Cummins diesel engine.

Rear Loaders

Rear loaders perform a different function than the front loader versions by collecting garbage at the rear with personnel tossing trash bags and emptying the contents of bins into a large container. Once the container is filled, the contents are compacted. The dimensions of the rear loader are similar to those of the front loader, such as the 350-horsepower Cummins diesel engine equipped in the Autocar.

Side Loaders

Side loaders can be automated or manually operated by collecting garbage on the side of the truck. Typically, the trucks are operated by a single person who can operate the side loader from the cab. A second person is employed on manual versions. International Harvester and Peterbilt are among several truck makers producing 260-horsepower diesel-powered side loaders.


Roll-off garbage trucks are typically used at construction and demolition sites for collection of large volumes of waste. A dumpster box is placed on a special roller chassis or trailer in which the box is rolled off the truck, left at the site and then rolled back onto the truck when filled for delivery to the landfill. Mack trucks, equipped with 405-horsepower diesel engines, are popular roll-off trucks.


Recycling trucks are specialized trucks that often are automated side loaders operated by a single worker who collects only recycled material by operating controls from the cab's interior. International Harvester and Peterbilt produce a line of recycling trucks equipped with the Cummins diesel.

Grapple Truck

The grapple truck collects bulky material or even wrecked cars for demolition. The grapple loader is mounted on the frame with a claw-like device to grab the waste and deposit it in a rear box mounted on the chassis, a stationary box or a box mounted on another vehicle. These trucks are typically used at landfills or commercial businesses. Ford's F-800 series trucks, as well as Freightliner and Mercedes, can be outfitted with a grapple loader and powered by the Cummins diesel.

Dump Trucks

Peterbilts, Freightliners, International Harvester and Macks are common cab/chassis combinations for dump trucks, which consist of a simple rectangle box placed on the rear chassis and operated by hydraulic lifts that dumps waste at the rear through a hinged rear flap or door.

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