What Is a Compactor Truck?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2019
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Trash collection services will often use a compactor truck to collect waste and compress it within an enclosed bed in the rear of that truck. The compactor truck will generally feature a hydraulically operated plate that will crush bulkier items and then compress all trash items toward a fixed plate in the truck's bed, thereby creating more storage space for additional trash collection. Two to three operators are generally required for safe operation of such a truck: one person will drive the vehicle, and one or two more will collect trash and load it into a hopper at the rear of the vehicle.

Sometimes the two compactor truck operators who are responsible for collecting garbage and loading it into the truck will ride on special platforms mounted on either side of the truck's rear. They will hold onto rails for stability while the truck is in motion; this is usually only suitable for short distances, as the truck operators will frequently dismount the truck to collect more garbage. They will ride in the main cab of the truck during longer trips as well as trips on highways or other high-speed roads.


Once the compactor truck as reached its capacity, it is usually driven to a dump or waste treatment plant. The bed of the truck can then be opened and unloaded, usually using a hydraulic lift that will tilt the truck's bed upward. The truck can then be used once again to pick up even more trash. The point of the compactor is to minimize the number of times the truck needs to be unloaded by taking advantage of all available space within the truck bed. Items are pushed forward in the bed to make room for new loads of trash, and only when the compactor can no longer compact the trash will the driver unload.

The pressure created on the walls of the compactor truck from the compaction motion can be quite significant, especially when the truck is near capacity, so the walls will need to be made from a durable material. Heavy gauge steel is most often used to create not only the truck bed and container, but also the hopper as well as the hydraulic plate that will do the compressing. This means, of course, that the truck is likely to be exceptionally heavy; a heavy-duty diesel engine and strong chassis will therefore be crucial components in the design of the compactor truck.


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