Getting behind the wheel of Pumper’s Classy Trucks.
Consistency is key. After a few decades in the business, Van Delden Wastewater Systems of Boerne, Texas, has got it figured out when it comes to adding to its fleet, right down to the manufacturer, transmission and tank type.
Its time-tested formula: Buy new Kenworth trucks with a manual transmission and an aluminum tank. It followed that formula to a tee with its addition of a 2016 Kenworth T800 with a 4,000-gallon aluminum tank built out by Progress Tank, which is a featured Classy Truck in the December issue of Pumper.
“We’ve been a company since the early ‘80s, and we’ve had many pump trucks,” Courtney Van Delden, general manager of operations, says. “With the wear and tear that we put on our trucks, they’re not always in the shop when they’re new (instead of used). They also tend to look better, and as we are able to increase (our fleet), we’re having the trucks match instead of buying used ones and having a mismatched fleet. They look more uniform.”
Kenworth is Van Delden’s go-to choice when it comes to manufacturers. In addition to the T800, the last truck was also a Kenworth, and the company just ordered a new one that will be up and running this month. As Courtney’s father Garrett, owner, sums it up, “We’ve always liked Kenworth.”
For tanks, the Van Deldens stick with aluminum for practicality in respect to road weight limits: “Aluminum is lighter. You can haul more waste,” Garrett explains.
Take a large tank made of lighter material and combine that with a push axle, which drops down to support heavier loads, and it “changes the whole ball game,” Garrett says. “When you go with a 4,000-gallon tank on just a tandem-axle truck, you’d still be overweight (with a full load). But by adding a push axle … you’re able to legally carry 4,000 gallons, as far as weight concerns.”
The surrounding geography is the determining factor for the preference of manual transmissions: Manual transmissions work better in the location’s “hill country,” with steep grades, Garrett says. A few of his drivers have worked for other companies that used automatics, and they agree that a manual is the way to go for this terrain. So logically, Van Delden Wastewater Systems has never had an automatic in its fleet.
A few other noteworthy features of the Kenworth T800 include an electronic level gauge that measures how many gallons are pumped or dumped, a built-in Kenworth navigation system, and Bluetooth. “Before we had (GPS) built into the truck like this, we had a Garmin stuck to the windshield,” Garrett says. “We also have Bluetooth built into the dash … so our drivers can communicate hands-free, calling customers or calling the office.”
In addition to built-in navigation and Bluetooth, the truck also has a tracking system that provides valuable information. “(It) tracks how long drivers have been at a job site, how long it took them to get there, and how long the vacuum pump has been on,” Courtney says. “It also has alerts for speeding and harsh driving events such as fast acceleration and hard braking. It helps in a variety of ways.”
The truck’s graphics reinforce the goal of consistency in the fleet. “We want to look professional and we want all the trucks to look uniform,” Garrett says.
“I think it’s a dirty job, and nobody wants someone who’s dirty coming into their house, or a dirty-looking, yucky septic truck, so for us appearance and professionalism is really important, not only for our trucks but for our technicians as well,” Courtney adds.
Professionalism and industry knowledge go hand in hand, according to the Van Deldens. Both Courtney and Garrett emphasize the importance of customer education and their technicians’ ability to troubleshoot, explain septic maintenance, and answer any questions a customer has.
“Some of our guys have been here between five and 11 years,” Courtney says. “But before (our new hires) get into a truck, they get experience as a helper first to make sure they know what they’re doing and that they are knowledgeable about the systems so they can help with customer concerns, and if they see a problem, they can bring it to (the homeowner’s) attention.”
And as for the newest Kenworth going into operation this month, the Van Deldens didn’t stray from their trustworthy formula. Says Garrett, “The last two Kenworths are the same as this third one is going to be.”