Getting behind the wheel of Pumper’s Classy Trucks
Family Flush Septic Service is a true family business, through and through — from the business’ two trucks to its daily operations.
Owner Tim Novak does the pumping on evenings and weekends, when he’s not working at his other full-time job; his wife, Anita, handles the office work during the day and takes phone calls around the clock; and their children help out a few nights a week.
“It’s just my wife and me, and my boys help out — and my boys are little,” Novak says. “So when we land-apply, there are times we go out as a family to pick up trash. I’ll take different kids on different nights of the week when they’re not doing sports, too.”
In addition to the family bonding time, Novak’s boys earn a little spending cash in the process, and he also puts money into their college funds for the work they put in.
Speccing out Big Blue
Built on a 2002 Sterling chassis, Big Blue (a December 2016 Classy Truck) got its name for good reason — the full, bright-blue paint job. “We let my 9-year-old son at the time pick the blue, and I think he picked it based on the fact that he likes the New York Giants,” Novak says. “We liked how the color stood out, so we jumped on it.”
All Family Flush trucks will sport that memorable blue color. “From this point on, every truck we get is going to be that real blue color. I talked about going with a red truck because my other son is a huge Atlanta Falcons fan, but my wife said, ‘Let’s not confuse people. Let’s go with that blue; it’s a trademark color for us now and when people see it, they notice it.’”
Emphasizing the fact that it’s a family-owned and -operated business, the decals portray the whole Novak family, and are almost the same as the decals on the company’s first truck, Old Faithful — a single-axle 2003 Sterling truck. The only difference is the number of children. “On my original truck, I’m missing a child because when I created the business I thought we were done. So for this one I had to redo the decals (to include) my son.”
Novak sticks with Sterling trucks for a simple yet significant reason. “I like the turning radius on them. In the line of business we do, being able to back down really tight driveways is important to me, and these Sterlings have a pretty short turning radius. Even the bigger one (Big Blue) turns pretty tight.”
The tank material choice of steel was also a practical one for operation. “The only reason I go with steel is because we still land-apply around here. I’ve heard that when you mix hydrated lime with aluminum it’s very corrosive to it. My relatives who are in the business as well just get steel because if you mix that hydrated lime in an aluminum tank, it will eat it up.”
Upgrading the tank size to 3,600 gallons on the new truck has increased efficiency, which is key for Novak. “Around here most people with older systems have a single tank up to 1,000 gallons. Most of the newer ones from after 1974 have two 1,000-gallon tanks, and now some of the ones in different counties are requiring two 1,500-gallon tanks. So to be able to go there in one trip instead of two just cuts down the time tremendously,” Novak says. “The less time I’m working, the more time I get to spend at home, which is always a positive thing.”
Big Blue has a manual transmission, but that might not be the case for future trucks. “I’ve never driven an automatic, but I’m seriously debating on my next truck being an automatic, because I’m trying to talk my wife into getting her CDL. She’d drive a stick shift, but I think she’d be much more comfortable in an automatic,” Novak says. “For myself, I guess us older guys are so used to driving standards, so that’s just what we go with.”
All in the family
Working together as a team, the Novak family keeps the business running smoothly.
“Since I work another job, my wife does all the paperwork and all the calls; she’s very good on the phone. I get compliments on her all the time on how nice she is, and that means a lot to have that personal touch. So many people have automated phone systems or they let it go right to voicemail, but my wife is able to take most of the calls, as long as she’s not on the phone with another customer. We don’t shut our phones off, so we take calls whenever they come in. We’re never closed basically.”
But it’s not all work and no play for the Novaks.
“We do silly things, too, because in all honesty sometimes there is downtime. When you’re pumping a septic out, it might take a half-hour. Well, we have contests to see who can walk back and forth on the hoses to the truck without falling off. I don’t know if my kids are going to have better balance than the average kids, but it passes the time and it’s something fun.”