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October 7 - 9, 2025

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Preventative Maintenance Tips for Digger Derricks



Digger derrick

Preventative maintenance is the best way of preventing your digger derrick from failing in the field.

Preventative maintenance requires monitoring equipment regularly, predicting when components will reach their end of life, and scheduling repair or replacement of components before the component breaks down while the machine is in use.

“Educate and train the operators and team on the value of preventative maintenance,” says Jason Oakley, Service Market Manager at Altec. “Early detection keeps small repairs from becoming bigger repairs and can reduce cost and downtime. Helping operators understand the connection between catching issues early through proper inspections and keeping the equipment available is key.”

Although it will take time and money to implement a proper preventative maintenance program, the benefits can easily outweigh the costs, since equipment failing in the field leads to slower production rates and increased operational costs.

A preventative maintenance program includes performing a daily pre-operation inspection, tracking component wear, scheduling maintenance, and ordering replacement parts.

Your first line of defense

Digger derrick operators are expected to inspect the machine for potential service and safety problems before starting each work shift. Some of the most important components to check are the winch rope, boom tip, and winch line keeper, as well as verifying pins and welds are in good condition.

Other components you want to regularly watch include:

  • The bucket liner for cracks, dings, or any other damage
  • The tension of the leveling chain to ensure it meets specifications, which will help you avoid wear and/or damage, as well as avoid negative effects on the bucket’s self-leveling system, which poses a security risk to operators
  • The rotation bearing for how it deflects material; excessive deflection may be a sign of wear inside the rotation bearing.
  • Hydraulic oil level
  • Engine oil level
  • Filter cleanliness
  • Safety and operational decals are legible

“Leverage technology to make it easier to identify potential issues, locate the source of an issue or even locate the truck itself when an inspection or maintenance needs to be completed," says Oakley. “Offer incentives in ways that are consistent with a company’s culture. Examples could include a contest for the highest rate of equipment inspection or timeliness of preventative maintenance work completion.”

Four approaches to preventative maintenance

There are four approaches to preventative maintenance, and a robust preventative maintenance program will combine aspects of many of these:

  1. Schedule maintenance according to the change time interval of key components.
  2. Runtime/mileage. Choose based on the type of machine and its application. This method can be more accurate than the calendar, especially when working more than 10 hours per day, five days per week.
  3. The condition of the machine guides maintenance decisions. This one is more accurate than the above if you have recent data.
  4. Scheduling maintenance requires making some predictions, however, this refers to using months or years of collected data to make predictions about machine health.

Make better decisions with data

The first step in creating a preventative maintenance program is to decide which equipment will be on the list and what you will track. Of course, your digger derricks will be on that list and all equipment that is more costly or is essential to the success of your operation should be on that list. When it comes to tracking ancillary and handheld equipment, only you can decide whether it’s worth including a piece of equipment in your preventative maintenance program.

When it comes to deciding what to track, anything with low changeout intervals, such as oil and filters, should be included, as well as hydraulic fluid, brakes, tracks, tires, and other components depending on the equipment.

“Altec offers a telematics solution where, depending on the asset, we can monitor miles, engine hours, or other conditions that can guide when service or maintenance is needed,” says Oakley. This provides real-time machine data and alerts, for greater insight into the condition of your equipment, so you can make better maintenance decisions.”

A lot of the data you need to record and look up can easily be stored in a spreadsheet or asset (or fleet) management software. The software will have the added bonus of setting up alerts and notifications, as well as automating some functions.

“Altec Connect makes maintenance manuals available digitally to our customers while also allowing them to coordinate purchased replacement parts and tracking service work on their equipment through the process,” says Oakley.

In your spreadsheet/software, you will want to record the following data:

  • Model name/number
  • Name of the manufacturer of the equipment
  • Description of the equipment
  • Serial number
  • Acquisition date
  • Maintenance history
  • Mileage and/or number of hours at each maintenance event
  • Date of the next scheduled maintenance event
  • Other details depend on the nature of the equipment and which details your company values

Three steps to better preventative maintenance

Once you’ve input the data, implementing a preventative maintenance program simply requires projecting, monitoring, and adjusting. 

First, project when your digger derrick will need to be serviced next. Ask yourself a series of questions:

  • Which component (or components) will need to be repaired or replaced next?
  • When is the next time this equipment will be available for maintenance (not needed in the field)?
  • Can I schedule the repair for that time? Or, does the repair need to be completed before then?
  • Are there any other maintenance issues that could be addressed at that time?

“We have a third-party mobile service offering available where Altec will manage the scheduling and maintenance of equipment for our customers,” says Oakley. “This can include a broad array of preventative maintenance including DOT inspections and chassis maintenance, as well as ANSI inspections on the Altec upfitted equipment. We then consolidate the billing/invoicing for our customer.”

Then you monitor daily inspection reports, machine fault codes, telematics data (if applicable), and visual inspections to determine machine health and component longevity.

Finally, with this data, you can make adjustments to your maintenance schedules as needed.

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