Combo Unit Cleans Hard-to-Reach Pipes

Camel combination vac truck gives Idaho contractor the power to carry out tough cleaning projects.
Combo Unit Cleans Hard-to-Reach Pipes
The mid-mounted reel on the Camel 200 combo unit helps Sweet’s Services in Shoshone, Idaho, clean irrigation pipes that aren’t laid to grade and are often accessible only through 4- to 10-foot risers.

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In some countries, camels are known as “ships of the desert” for their ability to carry goods and people through tough, arid terrain. In Idaho, Jon McManus calls his Camel – a Camel 200 combination vac truck (Super Products LLC), to be exact – something else altogether: a productivity- and profitability-enhancing beast of burden.

“We run into the most challenging situations you can imagine when we clean irrigation pipes in high-desert country,” says McManus, the manager of the hydrojetting department of Sweet’s Services, based in Shoshone. In business for more than 70 years, Sweet’s technicians pump septic tanks and do excavation and trenchless pipe rehabilitation work, along with providing sewer and drain cleaning services throughout Idaho.

“Many of the irrigation pipes we clean aren’t laid to grade,” he explains. “As long as Point A is higher than Point B, the installers don’t much care if the pipes are level in between.”

That creates plenty of opportunities for clogs in lower spots. And to make the work a little more interesting, the pipes are typically located in remote areas. Many times, the only way to access them is via tall risers that stand from 4 to 10 feet tall; think of them as manholes that rise above ground level.

But the Camel is well-suited for handling the risers because of a hose reel that’s mid-mounted on the truck, behind the cab. Because of that location, the jetting hose runs along the vacuum-hose boom all the way to the front of the truck, where the higher elevation allows technicians to just drop it down into the risers.

Without that elevation, workers would have to put up ladders or use mechanical devices to get high enough to manually wrestle the hose up and over the rim of the riser, then keep feeding in hose as well as pull it back during jetting, McManus points out.

“Wherever you put the boom, your jetter hose is there, too,” he says. “We just put the boom over the riser and start jetting the line right from there. It saves us from dealing with a lot of problems. … Believe me, the hose doesn’t pull back easy without that boom. It would be very hard on our workers without it. And the rim of that riser can shred even our Tiger Tails (made by Flexaust, a Schauenburg company).” In addition, the hose-on-boom feature allows Sweet’s to send out one to two fewer men per job, manpower that can be allocated more productively elsewhere.

The Camel features a 1997 GMC TopKick chassis, equipped with a 275 hp Cat diesel engine and an Allison transmission; a 6-cubic-yard debris tank; a Myers water pump (a brand owned by Pentair Ltd.) that generates pressure of 2,000 psi and flow of 65 gpm; a 3,600 cfm PD blower from Roots Systems Ltd; and a 1,000-gallon water tank. “The blower does a great job,” McManus says. “The boom and pipe are 6 inches in diameter, which provides more vacuum power than an 8-inch-diameter boom and pipe. We can run hose 150 feet away from the truck to suck up sand and it still works great.”

McManus also praises the truck’s simple-to-operate PTO system. “We literally flip one switch (a master hydraulic switch) in the cab, then go out front and flip one switch to turn on the water and another switch to turn on the vacuum. It’s a huge time-saver. It’s so simple to operate that I could tell my kid how to operate it over the phone.”

The Camel has also proven itself as a durable truck despite the rugged environments in which it works, with minimal downtime. And when repairs are needed, McManus points out that parts are easy to obtain because he’s not limited to acquiring them from just a third-party distributor. “I can buy a Roots blower or a

Myers pump from many sources. I love the flexibility and options that gives us,” he notes.

Moreover, when Super Products upgrades a part or system on its trucks, the company makes retrofit kits available for older models. “For example, I was having a problem with the latches on the rear gate,” McManus points out. “When Super Products fixed the problem, I bought a retrofit kit for a new-style gate with different latches.”

McManus considers the Camel one of Sweet’s most valuable machines. “Without the Camel truck, we would’ve had a much harder time establishing a dependable, profitable hydrojetting department because it would have been hard to jump over the hurdles our market presents. With that mid-mount hose reel, the Camel makes jobs that could be a pain in the butt really easy. The truck has paid for itself many, many times over.

“Even when the truck gets older, we’ll never retire it, just for that reason,” he continues. “We’ll keep Old Faithful around because it can so easily do what other trucks can’t do.

“For our specialty jobs, there’s no question that this is the truck we use.”


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