Vacuum Trailer Pulls in Profits

Powerful trailer-mounted vac unit helps Indiana contractor fill a niche market – and fit into tight quarters in factories
Vacuum Trailer Pulls in Profits
A crew from Powerclean Industrial Services uses a Hurricane 828 trailer-mounted vacuum unit made by Industrial Vacuum Equipment to clean up furnace slag at a factory in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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About five years ago, Powerclean Industrial Services was looking for a specialty vac unit — a machine small enough to work in space-constricted manufacturing plants, yet still powerful enough to suck up debris, just like a full-size vacuum truck. The answer: a Hurricane 828 trailer-mounted vacuum unit made by Industrial Vacuum Equipment Corp. 

The Hurricane ticked off all the boxes on Powerclean’s list of criteria. Smaller than a vac truck? Check. (It’s roughly 21 feet long, 8 feet wide and 11 1/2 feet tall.) Less expensive? Yes. A powerful blower? Sure thing. (It features a 5,660 cfm unit made by Roots Systems with 28 inches Hg of vacuum power.) Reliable and easy to operate? Affirmative. 

“It’s a flexible machine,” says Steve Barber, president of Powerclean, based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “We can not only vacuum up and bag dry debris, we also can hook the Hurricane up to a vacuum box and use the machine like a vacuum truck as well — and without paying $350,000 for a vacuum truck.” 

Barber has nothing against vac trucks. In fact, Powerclean — which is a fully diversified company that provides industrial cleaning services to a wide array of heavy-manufacturing customers — owns numerous vac trucks made by Guzzler Manufacturing and Super Products. But Powerclean needed a small unit to service clients in the glass-manufacturing industry, and the Hurricane fit the bill. 

“We have various glass-manufacturing customers that periodically do furnace tear-outs, where they tear down a worn-out furnace and rebuild it,” Barber explains. “Before that happens, we go in and clean out the flumes and regenerators and so forth. We also have to pull broken refractory bricks through a 6-inch hose, from 300 to 400 feet away. Then we bag the debris for disposal. 

“The blower system on the Hurricane is comparable to those on our vac trucks,” he adds. “The unit does a very good job.” 

The Hurricane weighs 16,700 pounds; Powerclean employees tow it with a Ford F-550 dually pickup truck. The vac unit features a six-wheeled, tri-axle trailer with rectangular tube frame; a 325 hp turbocharged diesel engine made by John Deere; a three-stage filtration system that offers cyclonic-separation technology, a baghouse with 37 Teflon-coated, quick-change filter bags and a dual, high-efficiency blower safety filter; a fully enclosed instrument panel; and a Midland air compressor. 

The unit’s relatively small footprint is a game changer. “We’ve had several customers this year do furnace rebuilds where the space where we can put a unit to complete our portion of a project is very limited,” Barber says. “Plus there are a lot of contractors on these projects doing various tasks, so real estate is very hard to come by. With the Hurricane, we’re talking about a unit that’s about half the length of a vac truck.” 

Barber also lauds the Hurricane for its reliability and ease of operation and maintenance. “On these furnace-rebuild projects, we’ve got to get our portion of the job finished before the tear-out can begin,” Barber explains. “So time is of the essence when we show up. If you have a breakdown, you’re holding up a very big project — there are big
dollars involved.” 

Power is never an issue, Barber says, even when the Hurricane is sucking broken refractory bricks from several hundred feet away. “It’s crucial that we have enough power to pull that material, and we do,” he says. In some applications, the Hurricane bags material in heavy-duty “super sacks”; the material gets sucked into a cone and drops into an attached super sack at intervals set by the operator. In other applications, the unit is attached to the front of a vacuum box while a hose is attached to the rear of the box; when the unit starts vacuuming, debris drops into the box before it reaches the Hurricane,
Barber says. 

Powerclean employees like the Hurricane because it’s easy to operate and clean. Bagged material drops straight into a super sack, which eliminates the need to clean all the crossover and side tubes found on a vacuum truck. “All they have to do is broom out the cone and move on,” Barber says. “So when we leave a site, decontaminating the unit is very simple to do. Sometimes we’ve spent four or five hours deconning a vac truck, but we can decon the Hurricane in a little more than one hour.” 

Overall, Barber says the Hurricane provides a solid return on investment. “This particular product just made sense economically and for ease of operation,” he says. “Randy Bourdo (at Industrial Vacuum Equipment) is a great guy to work with and the company provides great customer support. Every time we need something, they’re right there.”


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