A Productive Equation

Investment in custom-built vac truck adds up to better efficiency and higher customer satisfaction.
A Productive Equation
Franklin Sanitation’s customized vacuum truck assembled by Allied Tank has provided profitability gains by allowing the company to serve one of its largest customers with a single truck and only two crew members, where it used to take two trucks and a crew of four.

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Investing in a custom-built vacuum truck dedicated primarily to just one customer might sound like a gamble to some drain cleaning contractors. But it made perfect sense to Greg Franklin, the owner of Franklin Sanitation LLC in Huron, Ohio — once he did the math.

The calculation worked like this: It usually took Franklin Sanitation four employees and two trucks to clean out clogged drainlines at the dozens of restaurants located at a large, 364-acre amusement park situated about 10 miles northwest of Huron. One truck pulled a trailer-mounted water jetter. The other was a vacuum truck that sucked up sewage emerging downstream from the jetting point.

But Franklin figured that using just one truck and only two employees would add up to significant savings for both his company and the customer. First of all, it would free up the other two technicians to service other clients and generate additional revenue. At the same time, he’d reduce expenses for the customer, creating incalculable goodwill. Moreover, if the unit had more vacuum power, the employees could work faster, no longer stymied by periodic losses of pressure and the subsequent wait for the system to build up vacuum again.

The solution came in the form of a customized vacuum truck assembled by Allied Tank. Built on a 2006 International chassis, the unit features a 2,500-gallon debris tank made by Progress Tank, a Demag pump, a 400-gallon water tank, a high-pressure water jetter made by US Jetting (4,000 psi at 18 gpm), 500 feet of 1/2-inch-diameter water hose, and 140 feet of vacuum hose.

The 4018 water jetter is typically a trailer-mounted unit. But Franklin wanted a high-pressure jetter mounted on the truck for two reasons. First of all, the toolbox jetters typically found on vacuum trucks are under-powered for the amusement-park jetting. Second, trailers are too cumbersome to work with, especially on the grounds of this major amusement park, with its tight quarters and throngs of customers.

“I’ve never gotten along with trailers that well,” Franklin says. “They’re a pain to hook up and unhook, so I asked them to mount the jetter on the truck. I also wanted a more powerful jetter because my guys are used to operating stronger jetters and they open lines more easily.”

In most cases, a 500 cfm pump might be considered oversized for a 2,500-gallon tank. But it fits the company’s needs to a T. “I was told it was overkill,” Franklin notes. “But before, we’d have a lot of open-hose time because it would run out of vacuum and start sucking air. Now there’s much less chance of the pump losing its prime. It almost never sucks air, and if it does, we don’t have to wait very long to get the vacuum back. It’s a pretty good-sized pump for that size tank.”

In early March, Franklin Sanitation gets access to the park to clean all of the drainlines before the park opens. But despite that, clogs still occur nearly every day in the dozens and dozens of restaurants that dot the park grounds. “Once the park opens, I think those kids (seasonal restaurant workers) think the drains are a basketball hoop,” Franklin quips.

“We find straws and cups and everything you can think of in those lines. They take off the drain covers when they sweep the floors. … It’s easier to push stuff down the drain than put it in a wastebasket.”

When the company first started servicing the food outlets’ drainlines roughly 20 years ago, Franklin says “drain crud” would often back up into kitchens if the jetting was performed without vacuum. “Then we’d have to call two guys in from the field and have them bring in the tank (vacuum) truck. By that time, the park was usually open and there’d be a big mess in the kitchen. And no restaurateur likes it when you back up their sewer and make an even worse mess.

“Now we come in there and we’re not afraid to remove the grease clogs and vacuum things up at the same time,” he concludes. “It makes our work a lot easier, plus we cut the park’s expenses.”

But doesn’t that mean the company is losing revenue? Not necessarily ­— call it addition by subtraction. “If you make your customers happy, they’ll call you for more work,” he notes.

In the 10 years since Franklin bought the truck for $130,000, he says it has more than paid for itself. And when he replaces the truck, which is now reaching the end of its life cycle, he plans to configure the new one pretty much the same way. Why? One truck instead of two. Two employees on a job instead of four. Significant decreases in customers’ expenses. It all makes sense if you just do the math.


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