Easy Maintenance Means Less Downtime for This Combination Truck

Simplicity and ease of maintenance are major selling points for this well-engineered combo sewer truck

At some point, even the best-built sewer truck will need repairs. So when Wastewater Transport Services (WTS) decided to invest in a new combination sewer truck with a hydroexcavating package, repairability — along with power and performance — was a primary concern.

“No matter what brand of vac truck you buy, they’re high-maintenance vehicles because they take a beating,” says Cory Juby, vice president of the Texas region at Wastewater Transport Services, headquartered in Austin, Texas. “So when we needed a new combo truck, we looked very closely at ease of repair and maintenance.”

The company found just what is was looking for in a Model 900 ECO truck built by Sewer Equipment. Built on a tandem-axle Western Star 4700SF chassis, the roughly $450,000 truck features a 12-cubic-yard debris tank, a 1,500-gallon water tank, a 4,400 cfm Roots blower (a brand owned by the Howden Group), a 27 1/2-foot-long hydraulically operated boom with a 180-degree working radius and a Giant plunger-style triplex water pump (2,500 psi at 80 gpm).

A hydraulically controlled, front-mounted reel that both telescopes and rotates can carry up to 800 feet of 1-inch-diameter line and includes a footage meter. It also offers a hydraulic lift for dumping debris (50-degree dump angle) and a debris-body pump-off system.

The truck primarily is used to clean lift stations, which explains the unusually powerful blower. “A lot of them are at an extreme depth,” Juby says. “The average depth is about 30 feet. But we’ve gone down as far as 50 to 55 feet down and it still functions pretty well, with no loss of pressure.”

WTS specializes in municipal sludge hauling and cleaning grease traps, grit traps, septic tanks and lift stations.

Mechanic approved

When Sewer Equipment representatives brought the truck to WTS for a demo, one of the first things they did was ask the company’s in-house mechanics to take a look. And they liked what they saw, Juby says.

“They got our mechanics on board first. They saw how easy it would be to repair. They loved how everything is mounted — everything is accessible.

“We deal with some trucks in our fleet that are a nightmare to replace and repair components. But this truck is engineered as if someone planned to do maintenance on it.”

Because most combo vac trucks are similar in terms of specifications and capabilities, ease-of-maintenance is a significant differentiator for WTS. “In the long run, maintenance makes the difference,” Juby says. “If you ask even the best mechanics to twist into a pretzel to do a general lube job or a repair, they’ll skip it to save time — it’s just human nature.”

That, in turn, can lead to in-the-field breakdowns, which hurts profit margins and decreases customer satisfaction.

“But Sewer Equipment took the approach that mechanics shouldn’t have any problem getting under there to work. We have to drive some trucks up on ramps in order to get under them, but everything here is accessible. So the work that needs to get done gets done — and that can make you or break you out in the field, in terms of breakdowns.”

In addition, mechanics don’t need special training or a laptop with proprietary diagnostic software to trouble shoot the trucks.

Simple operation

The simplistic approach to maintenance carries over to the 900 ECO’s controls. The blower is powered by a hydrostatic pump at the front of the truck; an accessory driveshaft, driven by a hydraulic pump at the rear of the truck, powers all the other hydraulic functions.

The unit’s Hydro Drive technology allows the truck’s engine to supply power to the pumps without a power take-off. As such, operators can run the truck in neutral gear, which eliminates the chances of the truck slipping into gear while operating and potentially injuring an operator.

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” Juby says. “It works really well.”

Moreover, operation is as simple as flipping a switch that puts the truck into “work” mode. After that, the operator engages switches for the water pump, blower and throttle — no complicated touchpad menu or special sequencing required.

“As long as the engine is running and in park, you just flip the hydraulics on and you’re ready to work,” he says.

The company bought an ECO 900 a little more than a year ago and it’s been a sound investment. It’s out in the field working every day, sometimes for 10 hours a day, five days a week, with few problems.

“It’s our go-to truck. It’s always working. It’s like Sewer Equipment took all the best features of competing trucks and put them all on one truck.”

In fact, WTS was so impressed with its performance that it bought a second ECO 900 for its Houston-based facility. And Juby says it’s performing impressively there, too.

“We’re a very happy customer. And we’ll be buying from them again.”

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