Waste Collection Vehicle Undercarriage Inspection and Maintenance
Keeping an eye on undercarriage systems such as tires, brakes, suspensions, and transmissions
What you can’t see can indeed hurt your operation if no attention is paid to the undercarriage of solid waste collection vehicles. The operator has a significant daily impact on the condition of the undercarriage. The core of any good maintenance program is the inspection, points out Clinton S. Maryonovich, Speedco’s senior manager for national service operations.
Speedco, a wholly owned indirect subsidiary of Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, provides on-highway truck lubrication and routine tire services to commercial truck owner-operators and fleets. “Every fleet manager should have a routine procedure that requires drivers, maintenance personnel, or both to take the time to perform daily inspections on their trucks,” says Maryonovich. “Frequent lubrication is already a concern of operators in severe-service environments, but there are other preventative maintenance practices that operators must implement when it comes to the proper care of the undercarriage.”
That includes daily tire pressure and wheel-end checks, as well as observing for air or fluid leaks, which can help avoid costly repairs down the road and keep drivers safe, he adds.
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Operators also should avoid high impact from curbs or other debris, says Maryonovich, adding that it can increase the risk of damaging exposed vehicle components such as air lines or tire sidewalls.
A driver has control over how long a tire is going to last on a solid waste vehicle, points out Vanessa Hargraves, COO of Advantage PressurePro, which manufactures a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). “There are obviously things that are going to happen like road hazards that they can’t control,” she says. “In the solid waste industry, hard stops and starts affect tire life tremendously. However, you see drivers run up on curbs all of the time, so the attention the drivers pay to the road has a tremendous effect on tires.”
Daily inspections augmented by ongoing maintenance further ensure a healthy undercarriage. “Major failures can be avoided when keeping up with regular maintenance on truck suspensions,” says Laura Brown, Hendrickson’s product marketing spokesperson. “Regular maintenance leads to overall reduced vehicle maintenance and provides optimal vehicle performance for ride, stability, and cargo/vehicle protection.”
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Fighting corrosion is key to contributing to a healthy truck undercarriage, notes Keith McComsey, direct of marketing and solutions for Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake. “In the wheel-ends of a braking system, this requires a particular focus in two areas: preventing rust jacking and equipping the proper spring brakes.”
Rust jacking occurs in foundation drum brakes when rust builds up on the steel beneath the lining of a brake shoe, exerting upward pressure on the friction material and eventually causing cracks and breakage, he points out. “Although rust jacking can occur year-round, the risk is heightened in winter due to the combination of wet roads, temperature swings, and de-icing materials such as salt or chemical compounds, all of which contribute to conditions ideal for corrosion to take hold on brake shoes,” says McComsey.
“This means that when choosing brake shoes, both a protective coating and a strong friction material are needed to effectively combat this risk of brake shoe corrosion and lining failure, ensuring safety and compliance,” he adds.
Bendix’s OE shoes and remanufactured shoes equipped with OE friction, for example, both feature its electro-deposition paint process, McComsey says, adding that Bendix also uses a new enamel coating featured on remanufactured brake shoes with both the Bendix Basic and Advanced friction lines.
Brake friction is also part of the rust jacking equation, McComsey says. “Lower-cost friction materials tend to be manufactured with shorter fibers and have a lower flexural strength, making them more prone to delamination or becoming deformed under rust jacking pressure,” he explains. “Cracked or warped linings have a direct impact on stopping power and safe vehicle operation, as well as regulatory compliance.”
According to McComsey, it’s also worth noting that equipping a vehicle with air disc brakes eliminates the risk of rust jacking due to the different design. “When it comes to spring brakes, fleets used to just accept that these components had a somewhat limited service life because road grit and other contaminants would inevitably get into the spring housing and accelerate corrosion of the power spring,” he says.
Even with most spring brake suppliers coating the power spring to provide some level of protection against contamination and corrosion, the coating’s durability can be compromised by designs that bring the coils in contact with each other during compression, he adds. “This coil clash can wear away the coating, leaving the bare spring more susceptible to corrosion and breakage, the most common reason a spring brake needs to be replaced,” says McComsey.
Tires can take a beating in the solid waste collection process, notes Hargraves. “The tires are so important,” she says. “These workers have such strict schedules and more than that, that market experiences the worst tire life out of any other fleet we’ve ever seen. We’ve seen waste trucks just go through them because they’re starting and stopping, and starting and stopping, and pulling into transfer stations and landfills where they’ve got to run through so much garbage all the time.
“That tire is basically a cage. It’s got metal scraps. When a tire issue causes a significant blowout, you also see a lot of damage to the vehicle itself—not just the undercarriage, but the wheel wells and everything else. It can add up very quickly.”
A TPMS helps a solid waste operation see how its vehicle tires are performing and red flags issues before they occur, enabling an operation to be proactive rather than reactive in tire maintenance programs, Hargraves points out.
The TPMS also can monitor temperature as well to see how tires are performing and driving can be modified based on that, she adds.
Regarding wheel maintenance, forged aluminum wheels “offer reliable strength that significantly lowers maintenance effort and furthers the life of the equipment,” notes Merrick Murphy, president, Arconic Wheel and Transportation Products. “Aluminum wheels do not require the continual refurbishing steel wheels do—removing rust, repainting, or other labor-intensive actions,” he says. “Additionally, aluminum wheels are not painted like steel wheels, eliminating the need for touchups.
“In harsh environments,” he continues, “equipment managers are required to dismount tires, paint, or touchup and remount tires every year in order to avoid unattractive and corrosive rust. These additional maintenance steps result in higher overall lifetime costs.”
Some manufacturers feature patented surface treatments to further resist corrosion and lower maintenance costs, says Murphy, adding that Alcoa Dura-Bright EVO Wheel, for example, can be easily cleaned with mild soap and water, and is designed to be 10 times more resistant to corrosion primarily caused by road salts and weather elements.
Bendix Reman Brake Production
Certain undercarriage systems require more—or different—attention than others. Steering and suspension components should be checked at the recommended maintenance intervals following the recommended practices, notes Brown.
Vehicle operators also should be trained to visually inspect steering and suspension components, she adds. “Proper inspection and maintenance of critical joints or components such as frame hanger and axle connections as well as wearable items such as springs, wear pads, bushings, or shocks will maximize safety and minimize downtime,” says Brown.
Safety is a critical undercarriage concern. “The mounting surface and torque retention of wheels can affect safety performance,” points out Murphy. “Since steel wheels rust and aluminum wheels have a thicker mounting surface, aluminum wheels are safer in the long run, extending tire, brake, and suspension life.
“Corrosion on steel wheels remains to be a major issue, especially during the winter months. Hidden corrosion, most times undetected, can be significantly damaging. Aluminum wheels don’t chip, crack, peel, or corrode, so the risk of wheel separation due to compromised mating of the wheel, hub, and lug towers simply does not exist.”
Appearance plays a pivotal role as “rolling billboards for private fleets,” notes Murphy. “Aluminum wheels are not painted like steel wheels, so they don’t need to be regularly spraypainted, sandblasted, and touched up to ensure they always look their best,” he says.
“Enhanced appearance becomes increasingly important for the company’s image. Aluminum wheels can look brand new after being cleaned with soap and water.”
Poor equipment appearance also will also catch the eye of an officer charged with enforcing commercial vehicle compliance, which could lead to additional safety or performance violation findings, says Murphy.
Better-looking equipment is preferred by the drivers, he adds. “Many fleets use equipment upgrades like aluminum wheels to recruit the best drivers,” says Murphy. “If the driver is responsible for maintaining the truck, then their effort is lowered with aluminum wheels.”
Wheel seal leaks are a common observation during federal annual inspections, notes Maryonovich. “When a wheel seal leak progresses, it can contaminate brake linings or pads and contribute to a lack of braking action on the wheel end,” he says. “This might only be visible from underneath the vehicle. Regular underside observations of the wheel ends will help operators stay safe on the road and avoid Compliance, Safety, and Accountability [CSA] violations.”
The proper greasing of suspension, driveline and slack adjusters/S-cams are a vital component of proper undercarriage maintenance, Maryonovich points out.
Lithium-based grease should be utilized that meets the manufacturer specifications, which is typically NLGI Grade 2, he says, adding that it is important to ensure the grease reaches all of the right areas of the undercarriage. “For example, removing the transmission’s cover plate is key to correctly greasing the transmission’s through shafts and throwout bearing,” says Maryonovich. “If the plate is not removed, it’s impossible to determine if grease is reaching the input shaft.”
Maryonovich notes that Speedco’s technicians across its 52 nationwide locations have encountered damaged grease extension fittings for the throwout bearing. “These extensions are often damaged from continuous rubbing against the cover plate over time,” he says. “Without removing the cover plate, it’s near impossible to note this condition.”
Air dryers are not able to purge all moisture from the system and are sometimes prone to freezing purge valves, says Maryonovich. “The operator should purge moisture from the air tanks during daily trip inspections,” he says. “The operator can purge the most moisture from the air tanks by opening the tank’s drain valve until all air pressure is evacuated. The operation can be performed above the vehicle or during undercarriage maintenance.”
A thorough brake hose inspection also is important to proper preventative maintenance. “When inspecting the undercarriage, observe for air lines that are rubbing or touching one another,” says Maryonovich. “Take time to inspect these contact points for damage and consider installing an air line spacer to avoid future damage.”
Automatic slack adjusters should be checked for proper brake stroke as the correct brake stroke helps to ensure proper braking action at the wheel end. “If an automatic slack adjuster is found to be out of adjustment, the root cause of the condition must be found and repaired,” says Maryonovich. “Manual adjustment of an automatic slack adjuster alone is rarely the solution and may compromise operational safety if the issue isn’t taken care of correctly.”
Observing the inner sidewalls of tires when underneath the vehicle can also pay dividends for the operator, says Maryonovich, adding that tire damage from cuts, abrasion/impacts, or weather checking are often spotted by an operator while performing unrelated undercarriage maintenance.
Taking care of an undercarriage is important to its lifespan. Innovations in undercarriage systems abound that not only go far in improved vehicle performance, but offer enhanced maintenance benefits.
Allison Transmission’s 5th Generation Electronic Controls are designed to increase fuel economy for any application’s specific needs. Allison Transmission’s FuelSense “is an innovative set of unique packages of software and controls to maximize fuel economy while maintaining productivity,” notes Craig Koven, Allison spokesperson.
“This technology includes several features which allow fuel savings across the duty cycle,” he says. “Acceleration Rate Management mitigates aggressive driving, EcoCal lowers shift points while maintaining vehicle performance, Dynamic Shift Sensing chooses the best shift schedule based on operating mode to maximize fuel savings, and Neutral at Stop eliminates the load on the engine when a vehicle is stopped. The fuel savings can be up to 20% when compared with vehicles not using FuelSense.”
Allison Transmission offers a second “deep reverse” in addition to the standard reverse to provide greater control and engine braking during operation on steep grades, Koven points out. “2nd Reverse also enables more maneuverability when operating in confined spaces,” he adds. “When a vehicle is in 2nd Reverse, it has a slow creep capability with high engine speeds. With a mechanical ratio of -17.12:12 , it will have an effective torque converter multiplied ratio up to 32.5:1.”
Allison Rugged Duty Series’ fully automatic transmissions are built with Continuous Power Technology, designed to deliver smoother, seamless, full-power shifts, optimal acceleration, and startability. Each shift is made automatically when appropriate to enable drivers to precisely manage performance and exercise optimal vehicle control. The design is in response to the challenge of automatic manual transmissions that lose power and torque every time they are shifted, manifesting an inefficient operation and less productivity.
Allison Transmission also offers technology to boost maintenance practices, such as an oil life monitor feature that determines fluid life and offers alerts when a fluid change is required, a filter life monitor that provides an alert when a transmission fluid filter needs to be replaced, and a transmission health monitor that determines the condition of the transmission’s clutches and provides alerts when clutch maintenance is required.
The progressive load spring (PLS) was introduced into production on Hendrickson International’s HAULMAAX rear rubber suspension, reducing service issues and making a favorable impression on the overall performance of the suspension, notes Brown. “The PLS eliminates the need to estimate the appropriate number of shims needed for the vehicle and increases the life of the rubber springs and structural components and longevity of the suspension system,” she adds.
The Bendix EverSure Spring Brake with the No Touch Power Spring is designed to virtually eliminate coil clash, protecting the premium epoxy coating used on all Bendix power springs. “Because contact between the compressed power spring coils is dramatically reduced, the EverSure offers a significant improvement in corrosion resistance,” notes McComsey.
Wheel selection can lead to significant advantages for fleets of all types, notes Murphy. “Buying lighter weight forged aluminum wheels is a no-brainer when comparing performance, efficiency, maintenance costs, and appearance to steel wheels,” he says.
As gas and diesel prices remain a continued focus and freight efficiency becomes more critical, the urgency for heavy haul equipment to find solutions that contribute to fuel economy, reduce maintenance costs, and increase productivity becomes greater than ever—not only in North America, but worldwide. “Medium-duty applications demand all the same benefits as heavy-duty vehicles and fleet owners should focus their time on running their business, not maintaining their vehicles,” says Murphy.
Alcoa aluminum wheels
With respect to efficiency, work truck equipment managers should consider overall lifetime operating costs when specifying wheels on new equipment, since forged aluminum wheels can improve quick and continuous payback in fuel savings or freight productivity combined with maintenance savings over the life of the truck, says Murphy.
Third-party research confirms Alcoa aluminum wheels retain 75% resale value even after up to 10 years of use, Murphy says.
Thus, aluminum wheels are designed to couple freight efficiency and fuel economy with lower lifetime operating costs and payback of vehicle resale, driving toward lower cost of ownership, Murphy points out.
In the waste industry, lower tire operating costs are a factor of two primary inputs: buying the longest-wearing tires and retreads available, and maximizing the fleet’s retread to new tire ratio, says Maryonovich.
To deliver a longer lasting tire that also provides the durability and traction required in the waste segment, Bridgestone introduced the Bandag BRM3 retread designed to be used as an all-position tire in the waste industry, he says. “The BRM3 retread delivers significant improvements over its predecessors, including wear performance that is 20% greater than the Bandag BRM retread,” says Maryonovich. “Using the longest-lasting retread is critical, as disciplined fleets today can average more than three retreads for every new tire. This means that a longer-lasting retread not only reduces the fleet’s spend on retreads, but can dramatically reduce annual new tire purchases as well.”
Maximizing the retread to new tire ratio is all about active management of key performance indicators (KPI) by both the fleet and the servicing dealer, he says. “Specific KPIs will vary by fleet, but Bandag’s most analytical customers focus on performance by truck yard—which yards are using too many new tires relative to retreads? Why are casings failing earlier at some yards than others? Are specific routes more likely to damage tires? By leveraging tire tracking and analytics technologies such as Bridgestone Bandag’s BASys inventory management system, fleets can better identify and remedy these issues and in turn improve the efficiency of their operation year in and year out.”
When Advantage PressurePro’s TPMS came onto the commercial market 25 years ago, most people didn’t know what it signified, notes Hargraves. “Now with it being standard on cars and consumer vehicles, it’s more widespread,” she adds.
Advantage PressurePro’s sensors are built specifically for the commercial market and aftermarket. They screw onto a tire’s valve stem and don’t require professional installation or demounting of tires.
The TPMS provides end users with real-time tire performance data “not just in cab, but also remote, which is huge for fleet maintenance managers, or if the fleets are large enough, the tire maintenance managers can monitor the whole fleet’s tires from one spot,” says Hargraves. “That obviously saves a significant amount of time and money, because time equals money.
“More than that, it gives users the information they need to add significant savings to their operations through increased fuel efficiencies, tire life, decreased maintenance, and downtime—not to mention added safety for solid waste vehicle drivers and others on the road because the leading cause of tire failure is low tire pressure.”
The Advantage PressurePro TPMS system is comprised of two major components: sensors and monitors.
The dust cap on a tire’s valve stem is removed and the sensors go on the valve stem, ready to sample tire pressure every seven seconds, The reading is sent to an in-cab monitor or to remote electronics, such as a telematics communication system, office, or home computer or cell phone.
Solid waste operations can utilize the 5-inch-by-5-inch monitor in the cab of a solid waste collection vehicle.
An alternative to placing a new display in premium cab space, waste operations can use telematics units to help track trucks through integrating the TPMS to the current communication system and send readings back to the home office without the need for an in-cab display, says Hargraves.
An antenna is installed on the solid waste collection vehicle to ensure good reception. “Sensor installation takes about a minute each,” notes Hargraves. “Most installation time will be in running the antennae, which will take about 20 to 25 minutes.”
Wheel-Check is a visual loose nut indicator used on vehicles to alert drivers of the potential for losing a wheel.
The wheel indicator goes on each nut in a uniform pattern and if the nut backs off, it comes out of sequence, says company owner Stefni Walters. “When the driver is doing the walk-around, they’re able to see that there’s an issue and that they need to take the truck into maintenance,” she adds.
Few drivers conduct a “correct” vehicle walk-around, Walters contends. “They’re supposed to physically touch every nut before they get into their truck, and, as we hear, nobody usually does that,” she says. “This is a visual. This is just getting out of your truck and approaching it so you can see whether one is moved or not. Even if a driver is leaving the truck for a pit stop for the bathroom or food, approaching the truck, they can see if something is moved.
“Even if not doing a regular check, it’s a visible indicator. It makes their inspection a lot easier than physically touching every single nut.”