How to Maintain Your Boom Truck

By Steve Harnden
Jan 21 / 1708 Views

With the responsibility of lifting people high into the air to get jobs done, boom trucks pose greater safety risks than some other fleet units. Whether you call your equipment a boom truck, a bucket truck, or some pet name like “Betty Sue,” you need to keep that money maker safe on the road and in tip-top condition. The good thing is there are plenty of things you can do to maintain your boom truck. In fact, maintaining your boom truck is the best thing you can do after bringing it home following a successful equipment financing transaction.

First Things First

Let’s talk about your mindset. Have you ever heard your brakes squeaking and just let it go because you didn’t want to deal with the hassle? If that’s you, then you better straighten up – you should never let cost or laziness get in the way of maintaining your equipment. The cost of a solid preventative maintenance program easily pays for itself over the long run.

Another prudent exercise is to figure out exactly how much your boom truck earns for you in a day. Keep this figure in mind so you’ll know just how much downtime will cost you should your truck wind up in the repair shop for a time-consuming fix. Maintaining your boom truck will also provide a boost to safety, which is obviously the most important reason for inspecting your truck and keeping it in good (and safe) operating condition.

By following the tips below, you’ll keep your boom truck on the road for a long time, which means your equipment will keep helping you deliver completed jobs and put food on the table for as long as possible.

Boom truck maintenance

Pay Attention to Manufacturer Recommendations

Greasing your truck on a weekly basis isn’t just a good idea, it’s mandatory. There’s so many parts of your boom truck that need to be oiled, so having a plan to stay on top of a schedule will keep you on the road and finishing jobs. The following are basic recommended intervals for when you should swap out liquids for various parts of your truck (it might vary based on your manufacturer):

  • Engine Oil: 250 hours
  • Automatic Transmission: 500 hours
  • Standard Transmission: 1,000 hours
  • Rear Differentials: 600 hours
  • Power Steering: 1,000 hours
  • Antifreeze: 1,000 hours
  • Hydraulic Oil: 1,000 hours

Phew! That’s quite a list, but trust me, it’s worth setting alerts on your mobile phone to remind you when it’s time to perform that quick change. It’ll pay off in the long run.

There’s an Add-On for That

There are actually plenty of small, inexpensive items that you can put on your truck to extend the life of some of its components. For example, did you know that you can add oil coolers to your boom truck’s hydraulic system, automatic transmission, and steering system? Believe it or not, these simple add-ons can double or even triple the life expectancy of some of your components.

Train Your Driver

Whether you’re a one-person shop or you have a fleet, make sure the driver of each boom truck (be it you or an employee) is trained to watch the gauges. It’s critical that any problem that may be indicated while the truck is moving be communicated to your regular mechanic. Here’s an example of how ignoring a cheap fix can wind up damaging your bottom-line way more than it should:

Let’s say the seal is leaking on your boom truck’s hydraulic pump (I hate when that happens). The leak in the seal can quickly be identified during maintenance and easily changed within a couple of days.

The only costs you’d be on the hook for would be the hydraulic pump seal (about $40) and the cost of labor. A quick estimate of the labor (remove the pump, replace the seal, reinstall the pump) reveals that it’s about a three to four hour job. Let’s assume four hours of labor at $65, and the total cost for parts and labor comes in right around $300.

What’s the cost if you just let the seal continue to leak without replacement? Now things get scary. Not only would your pump wind up burning up due to lack of oil (replacement cost, $600), but you’d also be burning through oil like a mad-person. Maybe the pump fails at the most inconvenient time, say during a job, with a fully loaded truck, or when business is already backed up.  We’re talking a cost, at minimum, of over $1,000 - for what should have been an easy fix.

maintaining your boom truck

Timing is Key

So how do you know when something is going wrong with your boom truck? Well, routine inspections are key. The same driver who should be watching your gauges can also perform these inspections. Prior to beginning  his or her shift, make your driver inspect the truck for defects that may happen at daily or monthly intervals. Recommendations to ensure your aerial equipment will operate safer and longer can be found within the regulations of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) as well as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Of course, your driver isn’t likely a boom truck maintenance expert, and if he is, then you aren’t paying him enough. Getting periodic professional testing and inspection is  the tipping point to avoiding huge costs or watching your boom truck turn into a very expensive, shiny brick. How often you get your truck inspected depends on the truck’s activity and environment, among other aspects. These inspections need to be performed by qualified personnel who have a complete understanding of your aerial equipment and should be performed monthly (or annually at absolute worst).

It’s Up to You

Ultimately, the responsibility falls on you to ensure your staff members are educated and do all they can to keep each other safe and keep your trucks on the road. Figure out how to contact the manufacturer of your boom truck to find out both what you’re required to do and what you should be doing. Share this info with your staff and establish an inspection protocol for your fleet.

Anyone will agree that the need to maximize revenue and operations results in the need to become more efficient in how you use and maintain your equipment. You have to work your equipment to its maximum on a continual basis, to the point of abusing and overextending its capabilities. Extending the life of your heavy equipment is important for any small business owner, so it only makes sense to make sure you’re complying with some sort of maintenance schedule.

  •  boom truck 
  •  equipment 
  •  maintenance 

9 Comments

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-2180">
    Adam Bockler
    21 December 2015 at 14:44

    You make a great point about how you will want to pay attention to manufacturer recommendations. Heavy trucks and equipment can be significant investments for your company. You want to make sure that you keep them maintained and repaired so they will last a long time and work properly.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1 parent" id="comment-2336">
    19 January 2016 at 11:38

    I enjoyed learning about all the mandatory things you need to take care of with a boom truck. Are truck repairs pretty common with this kind of truck? I’ve always thought it would be interesting to be a truck driver. I enjoy learning about all the different kinds and how to maintain them. Thanks for the info!

      li class="comment byuser comment-author-bob-dubow even depth-2" id="comment-2498">
      Bob Dubow
      5 February 2016 at 16:09

      Good thoughts, Jack. Repairs are usually not common unless the boom is damaged or not maintained properly. The chassis needs to be maintained as well just as with any other truck chassis. If you have any more questions or thinking about getting a boom, you can call me (847) 897-2491.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-even depth-1" id="comment-2581">
    22 February 2016 at 09:09

    I can see how keeping your boom truck in good repair is a lot better than letting it break down later. I like that you mentioned the importance of training the driver. If the driver can catch problems early, then you are going to save a lot of money down the road. Thank you for this information!

    li class="comment even thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-2629">
    2 March 2016 at 10:48

    The best way to make sure the truck stays in good condition is probably training the drivers in the proper maintenance and set up a schedule for them to follow on when to check the truck. Then all of the problems should be caught when they are still small and easy fixes. Besides, the more the driver uses and inspects the machine the better able he will be to spot potential problems. You might also show him what some of the problems look like, If they are anything like me then seeing what a broken part looks like is often more helpful than just seeing it when it is running well.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-even depth-1" id="comment-2708">
    8 March 2016 at 14:29

    For many business owners, proper function of their equipment is essential for efficiency and staying in business. For many farmers, electricians, and construction workers, having a boom or picker truck is a vital piece of equipment. You make a great point about how having the proper training for the driver and operator can help to reduce the wear and tear to your rig. This will also help you to know that people stay safe on the job.

    li class="comment even thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-3059">
    10 April 2016 at 00:45

    We always include in our training that operators should be vigilant. Like what the article stated, even the squeaks that shouldn’t be heard when you’re operating, you should check it. Check the the truck before and after to ensure that there’s is no damage and if there is, better tend to it and notify the right people.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-even depth-1" id="comment-3151">
    5 May 2016 at 08:48

    I like that you say cost and laziness should never get in the way of maintaining equipment. I completely agree. When people’s safety is a risk you should do all you can to maintain a safe work environment. Thanks for the list of when liquids should be replaced. That can be easy to forget. Thanks for all this great information.

    li class="comment even thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-3344">
    8 June 2016 at 17:45

    I thought it was a great suggestion to train the driver in whatever maintenance is needed on the truck. This can help the driver notice the issues of the truck sooner and stop the problems from getting worse. I have very little vehicle knowledge so I will definitely start working on noticing my truck to make sure everything runs smoothly.