Thinking Inside the Box

There’s a lot more to this Maryland contractor’s jetter truck than meets the eye – like increased productivity and safer operation, for starters.
Thinking Inside the Box
Crew leader Santos Romero uses the jetter truck to clean a line. (Photos courtesy of B. Frank Joy LLC)

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From outward appearances, the nicely lettered, 14-foot Isuzu box truck owned by B. Frank Joy LLC in Hyattsville, Md., may not look like a productivity-boosting powerhouse. But a look inside reveals why it's an integral part of the company's sewer division, helping it rack up impressive productivity gains in prepping residential sewer laterals for relining.

"This jetter truck is very valuable to us," says John Brady, a foreman in the sewer division. "It helps us perform prep work for three lateral relining crews, and saves us a lot of time. I'd say our production has increased about 50 percent since we put it into service in June of 2010.

"Our crew used to prep seven to 10 laterals a day, but now we can do 15 a day – and sometimes even up to 25 on a really good day," he notes.

The truck's central component is a customized, skid-mounted jetter made by Sewer Equipment Company of America. It features a more powerful pump (4,000 psi at 23 gpm versus 4,000 psi at 18 gpm) and a larger-than-normal water tank (600 gallons compared to 400 gallons).

The higher water pressure enables operators to flush out root-cutting debris from laterals faster by eliminating two to three post-cutting passes through the line, which can save up to 30 minutes per line. To cut tree roots, the company uses Warthog nozzles, made by StoneAge, Inc., or Lumberjack cutting heads, made by NozzTeq Inc. For relining, the company uses a system made by LMK Technologies, Brady says.

Moreover, the bigger water tank minimizes the time required for refills – about 20 minutes – as well as the time required to drive around and find a water source. Brady says the extra 200 gallons of capacity eliminates at least one refill stop every day, which depending on circumstances, such as water source proximity, can translate into 45 minutes to an hour saved daily.

Along with 600 feet of 1/2-inch-diameter hose and a hydraulic retractable hose reel that swivels 180 degrees, the truck offers other productivity enhancements. In the congested, densely populated Washington, D.C., area in which crews work, the truck's compact, cab-over chassis is easier to drive, park and maneuver than a pickup truck towing a trailer-mounted jetter. The interior skid-mount configuration protects critical equipment and employees from harsh weather.

In addition, a custom side door provides easier access to tools and equipment than the rear door, which is blocked by the jetter and water tank. The truck carries a RIDGID SeeSnake pipeline inspection camera and a Spartan Tool 1065 cable drain-cleaning machine. An electric jib crane with a 2,000-pound lifting capacity, made by Vestil Manufacturing, makes it safer and easier for workers to remove and load heavier equipment through the side door.

"It's a big deal to have everything within easy reach for the crew," Brady says. "It's faster and safer. We've had a couple close calls with strained backs and what not, which we like to avoid."

General manager Desi Hannon notes that the slide-out reel allows operators to work on the ground and in back of the truck. "Along with the low-profile chassis, this provides better visibility," he says. "And by working on the ground, there's less potential risk of injury from walking up and down steps or working on an elevated surface."

The truck's features also helped the company better deploy manpower by reducing the on-site crew from three to two people. That, in turn, allows the company to price jobs more competitively, and enabled it to use the third employee to build another relining crew, Brady says.


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