right casters for carts and containers
You wouldn’t think of throwing away your collection
truck just because it had a flat tire. But that’s exactly what
people are doing when they throw away a recycling collection
cart, bin or container just because a caster has failed. Whether
the caster failure is due to an excessive payload, a collision
with a curb or tailgate or another cause, the failure often damages
the cart’s base as the caster tears away from the cart and risks
injuring staffers while also leaving a hospital, hotel, office
or other facility strewn with empty bottles, crushed cans and
Since the plastic container itself often remains in fine condition
and ready for more work, replacing failed casters and repairing
the cart bases, if necessary, may return the cart to service.
Though not the most challenging tasks your maintenance team will
face, caster replacement and its associated repairs take considerable
amounts of time and the cost for parts and labor quickly becomes
quite substantial while leaving carts and containers out of action
slows productivity. “Replace and repair” as an operational mantra
simply invites inefficiency and ensures your staff is constantly
diverted from their productive responsibilities.
Specifying the right caster in the first place to match the cart
or container, the intended payload, the likely flooring and other
operating conditions – without over speculating – minimizes the
risk of caster failure and extends operational life while promoting
optimum, smooth performance at the lowest cost.
To determine the type of caster required for peak performance
in your operation, a basic understanding about caster construction
is recommended. A caster typically comprises a wheel set within
a fork attached to a bolt plate. This is where the caster is
attached to the base of the cart or container via bolts, screws
or other fasteners. Casters may be rigid, meaning they roll only
forward and backward or swiveling, meaning they rotate 360 degrees
to maneuver in all directions. They are typically manufactured
of steel for maximum strength though aluminum and plastic are
also used for light-duty applications. Wheels are manufactured
in a wide variety of materials to accommodate different types
of flooring and other factors. A huge range of bearings with
a variety of properties ensures the wheels roll and swivel smoothly
in any conditions while a range of brakes and other accessories
may be added.
The most important consideration in specifying the ideal caster
is to determine how much weight is to be transported. Moving
and hauling bulk forklift container loads of crushed glass demands
a far stronger, sturdier caster than catching shredded office
paper in a plastic bin and rolling it for consolidation into
a larger container. The crushed glass has a high bulk density
and places ample weight per given area whereas the shredded paper
contains a high volume of air (a low bulk density), until densified,
and, therefore, places far less weight per given area.
Once the weight is determined, the required load bearing rating
of the caster may be calculated. For example, if 600 lb. payloads
of paper are to be collected then we recommend specifying four
casters, each providing a caster load rating at 200 lbs. for
a total load bearing capacity of 800 lbs. But isn’t that over
speculating? It isn’t because the four casters would only bear
an equal amount of the weight when the load is equally distributed
within the cart and when the cart is standing on a flat, level
Since collection carts are routinely pushed up and down ramps,
we recommend accommodating load bearing requirements due to shifting
contents by taking only 75 percent of the caster load rating
to arrive at the total cart load rating. In this case, total
caster load rating of 800 lbs. x .75 = 600 lbs. This helps ensure
that even if payloads shift inside the cart during transport,
the caster would more than likely be able to accommodate the
increased demand without fail.
The primary factor in determining the right wheel is the flooring
surface on which it is to roll. If a collection cart is to be
used indoors over carpeting or tile and noise needs to minimized,
such as in a hospital or hotel, then soft tread wheels are recommended.
Polyurethane is among the most durable and long-lasting materials,
but if the carts are rolled outside in a parking lot or in a
maintenance area with concrete flooring, the wheels are likely
to pick up tiny pieces of metal, gravel, sand or other debris.
Soft rubber rolls even more quietly than polyurethane though
it costs more. For hauling scrap and other materials where the
flooring is rough and dirty, such as on and off trucks, around
scrap yards, in industrial areas and for curbside recycling containers,
we recommend hard rubber tread wheels.
Of the group, hard rubber stands up to the most punishing handling
and weather conditions for the longest length of time before
wearing without marking clean, indoor floors and at the lowest
Many people don’t recognize the difference between swiveling
and rigid casters until they try to maneuver a bellman’s cart
to their hotel rooms and wonder why it either won’t turn or won’t
move in a straight line. Swiveling casters add 360 degree maneuverability,
which is critical for rotating carts and containers inside a
trailer or box truck. Workers typically spin, slide and drag
carts inside the trucks to make efficient use of the space but
pay little attention to whether they are pushing carts fitted
with swiveling or rigid casters.
Easy rotation offered by swiveling casters makes it slightly
more challenging to maintain a straight line when pushing or
pulling. This is why the caster configuration selected is important
in achieving the desired performance and longevity.
The classic bellman’s cart features two swiveling casters at
the corners of one end, from where it is to be pulled and steered,
and two rigid casters at the corners of the rear end. This configuration
combines both tracking and control with a stable platform that
distributes loads evenly among the four casters. In cases where
greater maneuverability is required, four swiveling casters may
be specified. These four swiveling casters may be placed at the
center of the front and rear and at each side in a diamond configuration
for even more maneuverability, though stability may be reduced.
Light weights to be moved in tight quarters call for this type
of caster configuration.
The recycling industry quietly runs on millions of casters. At
a time when commodity prices have tumbled and companies are struggling
for profitability, cutting cash outlays for replacement parts,
ensuring your staffers are spending their time on productive
tasks and eliminating day to day headaches are vital to your
survival. Making sure your recycling carts and containers are
fitted with the proper casters is an easy first step.