Guide on Water Damage, Restoration and Construction

How Does a Vacuum Truck Work?

  • By: Monica Shulz

A vacuum truck, similar to a shop vac, has a powerful pump that removes air from the holding tank, which creates a vacuum inside when in use. When the vacuum is on, there are primary and secondary shut off valves that need to be open on the suction hoses that equalize the pressure inside the tanks. This allows the vacuum truck to suck up anything that it needs to.

Vacuum Tanker Truck

  • What Is A Vacuum Truck?
  • Gear Equipment
  • How To Operate A Vacuum Truck?
  • Disposing The Contents Of A Vacuum Truck

What is a Vacuum Truck?

A vacuum truck is an industrial level vacuum that is used to suck up substances that an at-home vacuum cannot. These substances include liquids such as sludges, slurries, or anything similar. Upon use, the vacuum truck stores these liquids in the tank of the truck (this is why vacuum trucks can be called vacuum tanker trucks), and transport them to a location where they can be disposed of. Vacuum trucks can usually be found in municipality, industrial, and public works sites, as they are great at deep cleaning. They are combination sewer cleaning units, which is why they can handle large amounts of liquids.

Gear Equipment

Since vacuum trucks are an industrial tool, it is important the proper gear equipment is used around them for safety and correct usage. When operating a vacuum tanker truck, it is vital to have protective gear on such as a hard hat, goggles, a face mask, and clothing that covers most of the skin. Vacuum trucks can be used to suction toxic waste, especially if used in septic tanks, so it is important to keep your head, eyes, skin, and nose covered in the event that the tank spills or explodes. When operating a vacuum truck, it is important to keep your distance and have some sort of fire extinguisher nearby as well, in the event of an explosion.

On the topic of explosion, vacuum trucks can overheat if they are in hot temperatures so they need equipment to cool down to prevent explosion. This would require an air-conditioned cab. On the flip side, if the ‘suck truck’ is working in very cold conditions, the vacuum truck will need a heater in the truck to prevent it from dying due to harsh temperatures. The vacuum trucks also need basic equipment such as hoses and vents for different purposes. The hoses are necessary for sucking up the liquid materials, so it is important to ensure that they are up to standard to prevent hazardous liquid from escaping. Vents within the tank of the truck are necessary to prevent dangerous fumes from building up and causing an explosion.

How to Operate a Vacuum Truck

The first step to operating a vacuum tanker truck is to ensure that everyone involved in the operation has the necessary gear equipment for safety, which is mentioned above.

Next, put the vacuum truck in park and make sure that the brakes are engaged and the tires have something blocking them. This prevents the truck from moving or rolling away during use.

Then, start the truck so that way it can warm up to its operating temperature. This ensures safety of operation and it allows the vacuum truck to be optimally used.

Once the vacuum truck is all warmed up, then it is time to turn the PTO switch on which brings the truck up to 1,200 RPMs and the work light switch which gets it ready to begin suction. Then, ensure that the hose is in the desired spot.

The next step is to find the vacuum pump handle and pull it all the way out (this is the vacuum mode), and then push the directional valve down which starts the vacuum. In this position, the truck will also automatically have vacuum relief, which cuts off the vacuum at about 18 inches of vacuum and holds it there.

If there is a need to create more pressure in the tank, push the vacuum pump handle all the way in (this activates pressure mode), and push the directional valve down. This puts up to 5 pounds of pressure in the tank.

Disposing the Contents of a Vacuum Truck

When it is time to dispose of the contents, ensure that the truck is backed up to the desired dumping site. Once that is determined, start with the same steps of warming up the truck and turning on the PTO switch and the work lights (this is also called “work mode”).

Then, go back over to the vacuum pump handle and put it in neutral. This lets go of any vacuum or pressure that is already in the tank.

Next, raise the tank to its desired level and press the “door open” switch to open the tank. This then lets out all the contents of the vacuum truck tank.

In order to clean out the tank, most vacuum trucks come with a power hose. Turn on the power hose and spray it in the tank to get out all the remaining debris.

Once all of that is finished, lower the tank to its normal position and close the rear tank door.

Final Words

The vacuum tanker truck is a really interesting tool, as it is a way to clean up industrial size liquid-based messes. It can be operated quite simply, as users just need to know which valves and buttons to push, while also maintaining safety guidelines. The best option for those who need a vacuum truck is to do some research and find the best vacuum truck service nearby for your needs. 

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