What are Industrial Vacuum Trucks Used For?
Industrial vacuum trucks consist of a storage container and a suction pump motor mounted on a truck chassis. Vacuum pump trucks can be classified based on their design to pump wet or dry materials, capacity, weight, and other factors.
The vacuum pump is powered by either the truck engine or a dedicated diesel or gasoline motor. Most industrial vacuum pump trucks are purpose built on a heavy duty chassis, though sliding units are available that can be installed in a truck bed or on a trailer.
Industrial vacuum trucks are equipped to service the remediation, transportation, and industrial services sectors. They are capable of removing and hauling both hazardous and non-hazardous liquids and semi-solids, from heavy sludge to fly ash. If any substance is loose enough to be pumped and removed, vacuum pump trucks can do it.
- Sewage from a septic tank or sewer.
- Contaminated soil pollution.
- Brine water from oil well drilling sites.
Liquids ideally require different industrial vacuum pump trucks than solids. The vacuum tubes are between 1 to 4 inches in diameter depending on the requirements of the job.
Vacuum pump trucks are powered by a PTO from the vehicle’s engine. The PTO is usually a splined drive shaft connected to the drivetrain of the truck. In parking mode power can be cut from the wheels and transferred to the PTO instead. The driveshaft can power several components, such as the suction pump. A PTO may also drive the pump by a belt or hydraulic system.
On trailer mounted or pickup bed mounted vacuum units, a secondary engine drives the vacuum suction pump.
To gain access to hard to reach areas, an industrial vacuum truck may be equipped with a boom. The water suction hose is attached to the boom arm, facilitating the positioning and control of the tube over the desired work area. It is also helpful when servicing a residential septic tank or a remote oil drill site or when obstacles prevent the truck from reaching the site.
The diameter of the vacuum hose has an important impact when selecting and fitting them to the truck. Hose diameter impacts the operators productivity, therefore changing hose diameters in the middle of the job is not only inefficient; it can be dangerous.
Given the type of materials and the worksite conditions and the nature of vacuum pump trucks, workers need proper training to cover the hazards they are exposed to. Workers must use personal protective equipment such as a H2S personal alarms and air supplied respirators. They need training in the hazards of toxic gas exposure and what to do in case they come in contact.
OSHA supplies many standards and regulations for safety in the workplace.
H2S (Hydrogen Sulfide)
During the industrial vacuum truck operation, workers need to be aware of the hazards of exposure to toxic gases. Toxic gases are released whenever vacuum pump trucks suck up liquid waste to be transported to waste disposal companies. For example, waste water from oil and gas wells may contain toxic gases such as hydrogen sulfide (H2S).
Low levels of exposure to H2S may result in symptoms such as eye irritation, sore throat, nausea, and vomiting. At high levels of exposure, workers not wearing protective gear will pass out. At higher levels of exposure, the gas can be fatal within seconds.
H2S is one of many toxic gases that exist around vacuum truck operations.
The mixing of liquid waste with other waste materials may result in unknown chemical reactions producing gases as dangerous as H2S. For example, hydrochloric acid used in the oil and gas industry may react with waste materials already in a vacuum tank truck that then releases hydrochloric acid fumes. These fumes are potentially lethal if workers are not wearing protective equipment.
Hazardous Material Recovery
Industrial vacuum trucks provide an essential service to the transportation and recovery of flammable and combustible materials in the hazardous process industries. Their versatility and efficiency allow them to serve in the transfer of chemicals in manufacturing production, removing waste deposits from storage tanks or performing hazardous material recovery at the site of road and rail traffic incidents.
Related article: OSHA HAZCOM Standard
Related article: OSHA HAZWOPER Training
Industrial vacuum trucks and vacuum loaders remove dust, powders, solids, liquids and even thick slurries. A filtration system claims air before it reaches the blower.
They are ideal for;
- Chemical plants
- Cement plants
- Steel and aluminum plants
- Dust collectors
- Power generating stations
- Grain elevators and silos
- Oil refineries
- Sewer treatment plants
- Shipyards and docks
- Phosphate plants
- Waste to energy plants
Industrial vacuum truck services:
- Grease trap cleanup
- Septic tank cleaning
- Sump cleaning
- Catch basin cleaning
- Sewer Pipe Cleaning
- Environmental emergency cleanup
- Commercial waste disposal including jet fuel, oily water, bunker fuel oil, solvents and thinners.
- Hazardous materials
- Hazardous and non-hazardous waste
- Hydro excavation
- Pits, tanks and sumps
- Oil skimming
- Emergency response
Industrial Vacuum Truck Safety
Vacuum truck operators should always put safety first keep in mind several things when operating a vac truck or a hydro excavator. First of all, take in mind the diameter of the vacuum truck hose and the importance of changing from one size to another. The wrong size of the hose will make your truck perform slower and less efficient. Some other vacuum truck operation safety measures one should take are:
- Remember to never change the hose diameters in the middle of the job, this can be very dangerous.
- Make sure the bore hoses are smooth for better performance.
- Make sure the friction is not lost.
- Don’t ever enter the tank (a confined space) while the chemicals are still inside.
- Make sure to always ground the truck.
- Use an inline T device to prevent injuries.
- Include a manual or a remote release for the hose.
- Don’t mix dry and wet material.
For additional information on safety: See OSHA Training Online
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