Jetter Cuts Downtime

Reliability of Ramjet jetting trucks improves efficiency and makes customers happy.
Jetter Cuts Downtime
Performance Pipeline Technologies jetter operator Dan Schuler cleans a sewer line with one of the company’s five Ramjet V8015 waterjetting trucks from Vactor Manufacturing.

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In the municipal and industrial drain cleaning business, equipment downtime is a profit and productivity killer. It disrupts job schedules, increases business expenses and perhaps worst of all, irritates customers. It could even motivate them to find a new contractor.

Or so Gene Glassburner, the owner of Performance Pipeline Technologies (PPT) in Huntington Beach, Calif., has heard. He’s not all that familiar with the concept of downtime because his company owns five Ramjet V8015 waterjetting trucks, built by Vactor Manufacturing. He says the machines are as reliable as they are efficient.

“We run these trucks every day for eight to 10 hours a day, and the longest downtime we’ve ever had is one full day,” says Glassburner, who purchased his first Ramjet jetter truck in 2003. “And when it comes to maintenance and minor repairs, they’re very easy to work on.”

Competition is strong in the area served by PPT, roughly a 200-mile radius around Huntington Beach, located south of Los Angeles. The company’s services include cleaning and televising sanitary sewers and stormwater lines; spot repairs of pipelines using a UV-light-cured relining system made by Cosmic Engineering GmbH; industrial pipeline cleaning; and utility locating. The bottom line: If PPT falters on the job, there’s no shortage of contractors to take its place, points out Jason Gomez, a superintendent and project manager for PPT.

“For most of the work we do, there’s plenty of other contractors out there who also do it,” he notes. “So by minimizing downtime, we don’t lose customers who need work to get done quickly and dependably and who might look somewhere else if we can’t get the job done. Plus, if the truck’s not out in the field, we’re not making money.”

The Ramjets are mounted on International, Chevrolet and Sterling truck chassis. PPT uses the jetter trucks primarily for municipal work, mostly to clean 8- or 12-inch-diameter pipes for either routine maintenance programs or emergency blockages. Each truck features a 1,500-gallon water tank and a Vactor single-piston hydraulic pump that delivers flow of up 80 gpm and maximum pressure of 2,000 psi.

Four of the trucks feature a rear-mounted hose reel that articulates 270 degrees and holds 800 feet of 1-inch-diameter hose. The fifth truck also carries a rear hose reel that holds 800 feet of 1-inch line, but it’s mounted inside a 14-foot box body. Three of the trucks also include a smaller hose reel — also mounted in back — that holds 250 feet of 1/2-inch-diameter hose, used for cleaning residential lateral lines.

“That lateral-cleaning capability makes us more productive because it saves us from having to bring out another crew just to clean out a lateral,” he says.

The articulating reel is especially helpful because it keeps operators out of traffic and the truck doesn’t have to be parked facing a certain direction to work, Gomez says. He also lauds the diesel engines in three of the newer trucks. The engines idle at a much lower level, which enables the company to perform noise-restricted jobs in residential areas during nighttime.

“The flow-control feature also is great,” Gomez says, noting that some water jetters will operate only at one flow rate. “We can run it at 40, 65 or 80 gpm, instead of, say, just 80 gpm the whole time. Sometimes when you clean a line in the street it creates a vacuum or pressure in a home and you see water agitating in a toilet. If that happens, we can run at lower gpms.”

Another beneficial feature is a hose-vibrator system operators can activate by shutting off an accumulator valve. It’s helpful when cleaning lines set at a grade — sometimes up to 15 degrees, he says.

“It vibrates the hose via a pulsating pump, which helps it travel farther than a standard hose,” he explains. “Without it, we would have to go to the next manhole and work in reverse, which runs the risk of flooding out a house.”

The Ramjets really shine when they tackle tough jobs like calcium removal and cast iron pipe tuberculation. The groundwater level is high in PPT’s coastal service area, so calcium deposits commonly form at joints between pipe sections.

“Our claim to fame is calcium removal … sometimes we see 8-inch pipes that’ve been reduced to 3 inches in diameter by calcium deposits from the hard water around here,” Gomez explains. “In a worst-case scenario, every joint in a 300-foot line might be calcified. And if pipes crack it can be even worse.

“But with the Ramjets we can typically do 300 feet of pipe in an eight-hour shift using mechanical nozzles and high water volume at high pressure, usually 80 gpm at 1,800 psi,” he adds. “Sometimes it takes a little longer, like when we’re asked to restore a pipe to 95 percent of its original capacity for relining.”

PPT uses nozzles made by KEG Technologies Inc., NozzTeq Inc., StoneAge and Sewer Equipment. In addition, PPT owns three Vactor 2100 Plus PD combination vacuum trucks with hydroexcavating capability and eight camera trucks outfitted by CUES Inc. and RS Technical Services Inc.

Glassburner says the Ramjet jetter trucks have been instrumental in growing his business, established in 2003. And in the end their reliability is invaluable, both professionally and personally.

“We’re on call for a lot of cities,” he notes, explaining the professional aspect. “If they have stoppages and we’re on call and sewage is running down a street, we need to be out there within the hour. And on some jobs, if we don’t finish projects in time, we might have to pay anywhere from $250 to $1,000 a day in liquidated-damage fees. That’s not an issue for us, thanks to the Ramjets.”

As for the personal aspect, Glassburner’s explanation is simple: “Having these machines allows me to sleep better at night.”


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