Maintenance Checklists Keep Your Truck And Equipment Ready To Roll Through The Busy Season

Maintenance checklists keep your truck and equipment ready to roll through the busy season.
Maintenance Checklists Keep Your Truck And Equipment Ready To Roll Through The Busy Season
Packerland Portables manager William Pierotti (left) and owner Wade Pennau discuss the day’s workload, including providing maintenance for a Kubota tracked excavator.

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A heavy workload, long hours and little sleep during the busy season make machine maintenance a challenge. It’s easy to put on a few more miles between oil changes or delay repairs until the work slows down. But that’s when things often go wrong: A stop for fuel puts you behind schedule, a tire is low on air or the tank you thought was empty still holds waste from the day before.

“It always happens when you have a whole bunch of stuff to do the next day,” says Wade Pennau, owner of Packerland Portables in Wautoma, Wisconsin. “It’s usually when things get busy. Guys try to stretch oil changes or we don’t check tire pressures.” 

Pennau, who provides portable sanitation, septic pumping and drain cleaning services, has his drivers go through a daily vehicle checklist. Trucks are typically refueled and supplies restocked at the end of the day. Each morning drivers check the engine oil, the signal lights and do a quick walk-around before beginning their routes.

“The portable restroom guys fuel their trucks at night, empty the waste and wash them down so they’re ready to go in the morning,” he says. “That comes from years ago when a driver came back with a full load of waste. He washed the truck and fueled it up. But the guy in the morning wasn’t thinking and didn’t look. He got to his first job, the tank was full and he was 45 minutes away. That’s a big time-waster.”


Pennau says consistency and checklists are his keys to maintaining a smooth-running fleet.

“Establish a system and appoint a person to ensure the work gets done,” he says. “It’s not 100 percent in place, but we have one guy in charge of the portable restroom trucks and one guy in charge of our septic pumping trucks. Ultimately, if something’s not working, they’re the ones responsible for getting it scheduled to be fixed, making sure oil changes are done on time, making sure we have good tires on the trucks, and that’s made a big difference. It used to be the driver would tell one guy and the other guy wouldn’t tell the other guy and pretty soon there’s a problem with a truck. Now there’s one guy in charge.”

Supervisors are also responsible for training drivers, maintaining equipment and ensuring the trucks are stocked with supplies.

“We just started doing that about a year ago and it’s starting to fall into place,” Pennau says.

Drivers are expected to file a daily inspection report that is handed in at the office. If the brakes aren’t working properly or the steering is pulling to one direction, it’s noted on the report. Maintenance supervisors also drive each truck to make sure the drivers haven’t overlooked something. Each truck has a paper spreadsheet and maintenance record. Stickers are placed on the windshield after each oil change.

“We try to get within 500 miles of that sticker,” Pennau says. “We’re not perfect yet, but we’re constantly trying to make it better.”


For Clay Barks, owner of Clay’s Septic & Jetting in Nipomo, California, the busy season has more of an ebb and flow, rather than the sudden peaks experienced in colder climates. To make sure equipment is ready to roll when needed, Barks has drivers fill out a daily inspection report that’s turned into the office. He also has a mechanic on staff who works Tuesday through Saturday. For larger jobs, such as a transmission repair, Barks tries to plan ahead and have the truck worked on while the driver is on vacation.

“The slow times we have are the end of January through March,” says Barks, who offers onsite system replacement, repair, inspections, pumping and waterjetting.

If a mechanical problem occurs during the day, it’s dealt with immediately. If it’s at the end of the day, the driver places a note on the dash alerting others that the truck requires service.

“All of my trucks back into their slot. If you have a truck that’s pulled in, that means something is up,” Barks says. “If it’s something major, the driver will write a note on the windshield and steering wheel. That way nobody comes in the middle of the night and drives off with that truck.”

In California, businesses are required to file a 90-day biennial inspection of terminals (BIT) report for all vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds. At a minimum, inspection items include the brake system, steering and suspension, tires, wheels and connecting devices such as kingpins, pintle hooks, drawbars and chains. The report must include vehicle identification, date and nature of each inspection and repair performed, as well as the signature of the authorized representative attesting to the inspection and completion of repairs.

For equipment such as excavators and backhoes, maintenance is ongoing, Barks says. Every 90 days, fluids receive a thorough check and oil samples are sent in for analysis. Past samples have shown high levels of aluminum and copper, indicating repairs are needed.

“Everything we own we try to keep busy,” Barks says. “For us, it’s all about advanced planning.”


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