Emergency Vehicle

Former ambulance combined with a custom-configured water jetter offers first aid for clogged drainlines.

Emergency Vehicle

Mort’s Water Co. technicians Dallas Paris (left) and Justin Fitz feed jetter hose into a clean-out on a commercial lateral line. The company’s used ambulance serves as a heated, insulated space for its CamSpray 4007 jetting system, with plenty of storage compartments for equipment and supplies.

As a plumber and drain cleaner in rural north-central Iowa, Kent Morton — the owner of Mort’s Water Co. — tries to offer customers as many services as possible. He also tries to minimize windshield time, so it’s only fitting that he invested in a jetting truck that’s as versatile as his business.

About eight years ago, Morton bought a used ambulance for a bargain price of about $15,000. “We were looking for an insulated and heated truck so we could jet lines in winter,” says Morton, 68, a master plumber who established his company in Latimer, about 85 miles north of Des Moines, in 1999. “It also had to be heavy enough to carry a jetter and a water tank; and at 20,000 pounds of gross vehicle weight, it fit our needs.

“The ambulance has worked out well for us,” he continues. “It has a lot of compartments, so it’s kind of a shop on wheels. It’s equipped to fix almost anything drain-related. Sometimes we’re traveling 25 or 30 miles one-way for service calls, so we want to take everything we need with us without having to double back.”

The truck features a custom configuration developed by Cam Spray, featuring a skid-mounted water jetter, a 150-gallon water tank, a power-rewind hose reel that holds 250 feet of 3/8-inch-diameter hose, and a pump that delivers pressure of 4,000 psi and flow of up to 7 gpm. The company primarily uses Warthog nozzles from StoneAge.

Morton didn’t want a large water tank to occupy valuable floor space, so Cam Spray found a rectangular-shaped water tank (about 2 feet wide, 2 feet tall and 6 feet long) and mounted it on a raised ledge once occupied by a bench seat along the driver’s side of the truck. The jetter fills up the entire rear half of the truck, so technicians use a side door for access to augers, cameras and plumbing parts located adjacent to the tank, Morton says.

The truck enables technicians to do an average jetting job anywhere from 25 to 30 percent faster. “It’s so slick — we just pull up, open the doors and go to town,” he explains. “There’s no setup involved. We can just get after it. And if we spend less time on jobs, we can do more drains per day. And more jobs generate more dollars.”

Morton also touts the jetter’s reliability. “It’s pretty bulletproof,” he says. “We’ve had no mechanical problems — and we use it a lot.”

In addition, the company also owns a Cam Spray trailer jetter (15 gpm at 3,000 psi) with 400 feet of 1/2-inch-diameter hose and a 325-gallon water tank; the ambulance can tow the trailer when needed. The trailer jetter is used for jobs that require longer hose runs, like the time the company had to unblock a frozen, 600-foot-long milking parlor drainline on a large dairy farm. “We used the trailer jetter and a 200-foot spool of extra hose,” he says.

The ambulance is used mostly to clean 4-inch sewer lateral lines and light-commercial drainlines up to 6 inches in diameter. “Between the trailer and the ambulances, we can handle just about anything,” Morton says. “We went into drain cleaning with the idea that we could do 100 percent of every facet of a job, and that’s what helped us build our business.”

Mort’s Water Co. employs 18 people, including Morton’s son, Brandon, a technician who’s waiting in the wings to take over the business when Morton retires. The company runs three service trucks: two Ram ProMaster vans for plumbing, the ambulance and an older ambulance that serves as a backup vehicle.

The company also owns two RIDGID SeeSnake CCTV inspection systems and two augers made by Spartan Tool, along with a recently purchased HammerHead Trenchless point-repair pipe-rehab system.

In addition to serving as a mobile Swiss army knife, the eye-catching ambulance also gets the public’s attention. In fact, after the company bought the first one, it wasn’t uncommon for other drivers to pull off to the side of rural roads when they saw the vehicle approaching, Morton says with a chuckle. “We do consider sewer work as a kind of emergency,” he quips.

Morton also plans to take delivery of a new jetting truck, a 2018 Ram 5500 4x4 with a box body built by Bay Bridge. Cam Spray outfitted the truck with a 4007 jetter (4,000 psi at up to 7 gpm), 250 feet of 3/8-inch-diameter hose and a 180-gallon water tank. That new truck will be used to serve existing customers around Latimer, while the ambulance will head over to a new two-man shop the company recently purchased in Allison, about 30 miles away.

“They only use augers over there, so there’s a market for our jetter,” Morton notes. “The success we’ve had with the ambulance jetter played a big part in our decision to expand. We’re very satisfied with how it all worked out.”


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.