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Vacuum Trucks
What are They and How Do They Work?


Vacuum pump trucks are by definition vacuum tanks that are truck mounted or vac trailer mounted coupled with a high velocity vacuum pump that hydraulically load wet and dry material via vacuum hoses. (Click here to see Wikipedia Definition).

A rotary vacuum pump (Click here to see Wikipedia Definition) is driven by a PTO mounted on the truck that sucks up either wet or dry material. The material is then transported and is either pumped out or the tank is opened for dumping.

Vacuum TruckSupervac 2000 Vacuum Truck

The vacuum unit is truck mounted or trailer mounted on either a single axle or quad axle.

Some units feature positive displacement blowers that operate in extreme weather conditions including temperatures as low as -35°F.

Vac truck manufacturers offer accessories such as core drills, water jetters or air compressors at the time of purchase or afterwards.

A liquid vacuum truck’s primary purpose is to transfer liquid and sludge waste to waste disposal companies. 





They are typically configured to meet the needs of cities, municipalities, chemical industries and the contractors who serve them. The common applications are:

Ultravac Vacuum TruckUltravac Vacuum Truck
  • Septic emptying;
  • Sewer pipe cleaning;
  • Catch basin cleaning.

However, the newest application is hydro excavation, where high pressure water jetter cuts the ground and a industrial vacuum loader hose moves debris into vacuum tanks.

In addition to residential, industrial and commercial waste disposal applications, vacuum trucks can be used in more specialised fields, such as:

  • Helping workers locate underground tanks or lines;
  • Trench cave-in rescue and recovery;
  • Emergency response calls for dangerous and hazardous materials.

The Oil and Mining industries use vacuum trucks to remediate soil pollution, empty sludge ponds and clean out storage tanks. They also use them at drilling sites to remove production site brine water, cement and drilling debris.

Disposal is done at treatment plants or waste disposal companies, and if biodegradable, may be spread across farmers’ fields.

Choosing the Right Vacuum Truck

It’s important to choose the right truck for the job. Since they serve such a variety of industries, it’s important to specify your operation’s particular requirements. For example, stainless steel tanks may be required to transport waste water, harsh chemicals, caustic acids and other corrosive liquids.

Stainless steel tanks are usually spec'd for septic and oilfield applications, because they are corrosion-resistant. Oilfield applications also require a heavy duty truck with excellent reliability ratings, given the severe conditions at the work site.

Hydro Vacuum Truck

Size and weight of the vac truck may be a consideration if you need to negotiate city streets.

However, for large jobs you may need to consider a vacuum tank trailer with its much larger load capacity.

A vacuum truck manufacturer can configure for you a pumper cleaner, hydro-excavator, static vacuum tank, vane vacuum pump for bulk transport or non-destructive diggers.

1Research and Specify Your Needs


  • Determine what kind of vacuum tank truck you need. Find out how you need to deal with liquids and solids. Some tanks can only hold either solid or liquid material but not both together,  while others can accommodate both liquid and solid waste.
  • What are the engine power requirements?
  • What kind of vacuum system does your application require?
  • Is the operator's cab important? - Do your operators spend long days in the cab and do you need to ensure their comfort for enhanced productivity?


2Figure out Your Budget
Before purchasing, it is essential to first calculate a budget.

  • Equipment payments - are you financing through a bank or leasing?
  • Insurance - Liability and collision
  • Gas and oil
  • Maintenance: Tires, tune-ups, debris body cleaning, hydraulic system service.

Vacuum trucks are a substantial investment and you need to know whether your business can support this cost.

3New, Used or Reconditioned
Your budget will determine what kind of truck you can afford. You can then find the right equipment at the right price.

  • When buying NEW check the manufacturer’s warranty and reputation and make sure you can get the vacuum truck service locally.
  • When buying USED, make sure you get all the service records for the machine and have the machine inspected before you purchase, including an oil analysis. Knowing what you’re buying will prevent headaches in the future.
  • When buying a RECONDITIONED truck make sure that everything that was done to the truck is documented and make sure you get a warranty with the equipment.

4Take Your Time

Take Your Time
  • If you want to to come away with the best deal, don’t rush. Once you’ve found the right machine, a thorough inspection by yourself or your mechanic is a must before taking delivery.
  • It is important to be sure that what you have purchased has all the proper components installed and is what you ordered.
  • Once you’ve taken possession, read the manufacturer’s owner's manual to ensure that you follow all maintenance schedules to ensure the long-term functioning and safety of the vehicle.

Investing in vacuum trucks can open up many business opportunities and help expand your business services.

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