Unscheduled downtime for a work truck is a fleet maintenance manager's worst enemy. According to Jeff Rousseau, maintenance manager for Allied Waste's Tyngsboro, MA-based division, “Sanitation trucks take a lot of abuse on a daily basis, working in a stop-and-go environment. Added to that, in New England the trucks must operate in a variety of weather conditions.

“We see everything from scorching 100-degree days in the summer to frigid subzero temperatures in the winter,” Rousseau says. “Regardless of the conditions, though, our trucks have got to be out there doing their job. The secret to success is being able to anticipate things like severe weather changes or vehicle repairs, and make adjustments for them. A good preventive maintenance program is the foundation on which we operate our fleet.”

With its corporate headquarters located in Scottsdale, AZ, Allied Waste has operations nationwide, including many BFI companies that it has recently acquired. Rousseau's Tyngsboro division, in fact, still operates under the BFI name.

“We have 140 trucks in our division, servicing over 700,000 commercial and residential customers in northeastern and north central Massachusetts, as well as southern New Hampshire,” Rousseau reports. “Maintenance on all these vehicles is done centrally at the Tyngsboro shop. In addition, we have one road service vehicle dedicated solely to servicing trucks in the field.”

Mack's MR heavy-duty COE truck is the fleet's primary power unit. The vehicles are spec'd with heavy rear suspensions and electronically controlled automatic transmissions. “In addition, we have what we call ‘live power’ hydraulics on the trucks, which are driven off the engine as opposed to the transmission,” says Rousseau. “Not only does ‘live power’ work a lot better with automatic transmissions, but it also enables drivers to continue operating the hydraulics while the truck is moving.”

The division specs various manufacturers' bodies, including Heil and McLain frontloaders, Leach rearloaders and Galbreath roll-off units. The fleet also uses Labrie recycle trucks equipped with right-side-drive so drivers can operate from the curbside of the truck.

“Environmental awareness and safety are two of our biggest concerns,” Rousseau notes. “These trucks carry up to 100 gallons of fuel and 65 gallons of hydraulic oil. We must consistently check for wear of the hydraulic lines and other components so they don't fail on the road and dump oil on the ground.

“We also do everything we can to make the trucks, drivers and laborers more visible to the public,” adds Rousseau. “We use a lot of reflective tape on the vehicles, and personnel wear orange reflective vests. Where applicable, each vehicle is also equipped with Clarion rear vision cameras.”

While specs for Allied Waste trucks are customized according to each division's geography and local weight restrictions, there are some items, like the rear vision camera systems, that are required by corporate on all vehicles. Rousseau notes that Allied has also recently mandated a new lighting package that includes all-LED lights, strobes and reflective markers for each truck.

According to Rousseau, heavy use, especially of the trucks' hydraulics, necessitates constant fleet inspections along with regularly scheduled preventive maintenance to keep major problems from developing. Each of the 125 drivers in the division is responsible for his own pre- and post-trip inspection, with reports submitted to Rousseau at the end of each day regardless of whether or not defects are found. Fifteen mechanics on staff do most of the fleet repairs overnight so the vehicles are back on the road in the morning.

“Finding qualified mechanics has typically been difficult for us,” Rousseau reports, “although more recently, good applicants have been coming in. Keeping wages competitive goes a long way when trying to recruit skilled technicians, and recently the refuse business has responded by bringing wages up to a much more even level with other industries.”