Vacuum Trucks & Trailers: Keys to the Industry

Vacuum trucks and trailers are a vital component of a septic professional’s business. So, we talked to some of the big manufacturers in the industry about their options, what we can look forward to and most importantly, what we should look for when we buy one.

David Sipkema and Bill Siegle from Presvac, Tim Lightner, sales and marketing manager at Pik Rite, and Shane Linnell, partner at Fortitude Manufacturing all shared their insights into the industry.

Have there been any recent changes or will there be future changes for Vacuum Trucks and Trailers?

Siegle: The biggest thing that we’ve seen in the last decade has been electronics. The manufacturers have adapted to that. It’s brought the industry forward. We’ve had to do a revamp because we build a lot of different units and you have to have smart people that understand electronics at the plant. The quality of pumps, blowers, hydraulics, etc is better today than it was 10 years ago.

One thing that we are seeing orchestrated in California and Texas is carbon filtration for flammables. They don’t want hydrocarbons emitted into the air, so we need to make sure there are clean emissions. We made a unit and it’s really catching on.

Lightner: The industry is constantly changing, and we continue to listen to our customers to make improvements. We want to build the best tank possible to work the way our customers work.

What should you look for when buying one?

Lightner: The key thing is properly sizing your vacuum system to your tank and having it set up correctly. That is it in a nutshell, but there’s a lot of stuff in there as well–you also want proper weight distribution for your particular state. Determining what size tank you what is a key part of this. Someone may want to be able to pump a certain number of tanks before unloading or need certain things that we can customize for him.

Because we build the tanks and not a whole truck, I ask them if they already have a chassis they want to use, or a dealer or particular brand they like. We work with different truck dealers, so if a customer likes a particular brand, then I hook them up with a particular truck dealer, and, of course, we will install the tank.

Sipkema: I think they would want a manufacturer that has been around awhile. The regulations are different for each state so they want someone that is aware of those regulations in the customer’s state.

Sielge: The biggest issue when I talk to a contractor, is that they need to understand what they want to use the truck for; whether they want a code truck or a noncode truck, etc. It’s one of the biggest hurdles that we still see.

One of the questions that a contractor should ask himself before calling the manufacturer is: What do you want it to do and what do you want it to be at the end of the day? It’s not always about selling the most expensive piece of equipment, every contractor has a different need for what they want to do.

If they aren’t real familiar with what they want it to be, or knowing if they need this pump or blower, I’ll ask them what size hose they want to work with, and that tells me everything I need to know. For example, a guy may tell me that he wants a 5,000 cfm blower, but I’m not sure that’s where he wants to be. So I ask him what size hose he needs, and he tells me a 3” hose. Well, then you’re wasting your time buying a 5,000 cfm. The 3” hose tells me where we need to look. A 3” hose is a 400 cfm and under.

Then you start getting into your other needs. When you get into chemicals, you have to look at whether you need stainless or carbon. Do you need a boom, water, jetting? Once you understand what you want it to be when it shows up in your yard, then the rest falls into place.

The last thing I want is to sell you a $400,000 piece of equipment and then it doesn’t do what you need it to do. Having a salesman that understands what questions to ask is important. I get my knowledge from 25 years of selling equipment–I can always pull up archives, and come up with an idea for you. You get that from vast sales background.

What is the difference between using carbon and stainless?

Sipkema: It’s primarily for what type of materials you are loading. Stainless can handle a greater variety than carbon–the tank will last longer but it costs more money.
Depending on how they are using it will determine how long it lasts, but we’ve had stainless steel tanks 30 years old and still using them. Again, depending on the application, carbon tanks last a long time too. With septic, where it’s not abrasive, carbon will last long as well. But, theoretically, stainless may last forever.

Linnell: Cost is one of the main factors. Carbon is 1/3 of the cost of aluminum.

How does roll stability work?

Linnell: It’s some of the latest technology to work with ADS to minimize roll overs and it’s pretty interesting technology. Effectively, it recognizes when it’s off-kilter or when the load has shifted to where it’s taking the trailer out of kilter and approaching roll over. It applies brake pressure to different wheels to settle the load. There’s a link on our website that shows it in action.

It also records an event so that a fleet manager can pull data and know that it has occurred, which can lead to a training opportunity for a driver, or notify them of a particularly bad location. It’s also beneficial for a post accident investigation. We put it in all of our tanks as a standard.

What type of customer service do you offer?

Lightner: We have a service department for anything that might arise such as general maintenance or pump rebuilding, and a fully stocked parts department for all our customers needs.

Sipkema: We sell equipment all over the world–Russia, China, Madagascar–so we are confident that it will work. We have built a reputation for quality and we’ve been around for 40 years now.

What are the benefits of a Pik Rite truck?

Lightner: Quality, our tanks are welded inside and out and we are very proud of our paint process. We offer sizes from the small slide in type units all the way up to larger trailer units. We have several unique features, such as our spring-mounted pockets, and our baffle system is a full walk through system so you don’t have to crawl through it. We work with different manufacturers for vacuum pump systems which include rotary vane pumps that are air or liquid cooled, up to larger blower type systems. We offer different options such as internal epoxy coating, site gauges, level indicators, and back-up cameras. We also offer different configurations as far as tool boxes, dump units, full open doors, and more.

What are the benefits of a Presvac truck?

Siegle: Forty years of experience building trucks. People have been here 35 years on the floor and they can do just about anything. We are very innovated and have our own engineering department. We get the odd ball stuff that no one else wants to do any more. Our welders are certified. Our turnover is low.

Although we have an old plant, everything is modernized. We build everything computerized at the plant, and they are subarc welded. We made a jig to cut doors on and you can stand up and weld the whole door and it fits every time. We have water cutting tables for cutting parts. When someone wants something that is not standard, they look to us.

I saw on one of the trailers that Presvac uses a Fruitland pump, do you use them on all of your trailers and/or trucks?

Sipkema: It’s about 50/50. It really depends on the customer. We have one big customer and they use Fruitland–some people use a certain type of pump and they like to stick with that brand. We also build our own vane pump, the PV750. A lot of our customers spec this pump because of its heavy duty design.

What if I need a tank for industrial type work?

Lightner: We do make tanks for the energy services such as gas and oil.

Linnell: Most of our customers need high volume and our tanks are used to service most of the oil field water.


For more information, please visit:

Fortitude Manufacturing:
Pik Rite:

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