We get behind the wheel of one of Pumper magazine's Classy Trucks by having a Classy Conversation with Eric Zuech of Zuech's Environmental Services
Expanding your pumping services sometimes means modifying how you spec out your pump truck. Just ask Eric Zuech, owner of Zuech’s Environmental Services of Franklinville, New York, about how his company began cleaning catch basins and car wash pits in addition to septic tanks.
Zuech took a slightly different approach to speccing out his 2012 Kenworth T800, built by Transway Systems, which features an NVE blower, a hoisted body and a full-opening rear door.
“This is something new for us, definitely,” Zuech says. “All of our other trucks have vane pumps in them. But since we’ve gotten into cleaning catch basins and car wash pits, moving a little more air and vacuum seemed to be a good idea. And providing those services is the whole reason for the hoisted body and opening rear door.”
“So far, so good. We’ve had the truck for a year now, and it’s very low maintenance,” he says. “A vane pump uses oil, and a blower doesn’t use any. It builds a lot of heat though, compared to a vane pump. But so far, so good. I like it. It builds vacuum immediately.”
Zuech says it's like a Shop-Vac on a larger scale, adding that it works well for moving sand and grit out of catch basins and cleaning out car wash pits.
“From here on out, we’ll go through a trial period for the next three years with it, and if we don’t have any issues, it’s very possible our next truck will have a blower, too.”
From oil and gas to septic service
Zuech’s newest addition to his fleet came from the oil and gas industry.
“In our region, the oil and gas industry was booming back around 2011 to 2013,” he says. “Then it dried up there for a while, and it was easier to find those trucks used. It was just at the right place at the right time.”
Though it serviced a different industry, only a few alterations needed to be made for its new application. “When we got the truck, it had a 4,600-gallon regular vacuum tank, and we took that body off it. I sent the truck to Transway in Canada — that’s where we buy most of our septic pumping trucks — and they put the body that’s on it today with the 4,300-gallon tank with a full hoist and opening rear door on it. We actually had the frame shortened to better suit our application.”
The truck features an 18-speed transmission, and Zuech wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’m an old-school guy, and I don’t really believe in an automatic transmission in a heavy truck,” he says. “I think everybody should learn how to drive a truck with a standard, heavy-duty transmission in it. I won’t say this will never happen, but as of right now, when it comes to trucks that big and that heavy (in our fleet), they will have manual transmissions.”
Zuech made the cost-effective choice to go large with a 4,300-gallon tank, and he opted for steel instead of aluminum for its durability. “I have talked to Transway about aluminum versus steel, and they steered us more to stick with steel because of the terrain we deal with here in western New York. We have a hilly terrain, and there’s a lot of twisty, turny roads. They seem to think that steel is a better option than aluminum because of the durability when it comes to our application, so that’s why we’ve stuck with the steel-body trucks.”
Due to New York’s environment, the tanks aren’t the only steel features on Zuech’s pumper trucks. “Salt is a huge problem here,” he says. “Currently all three of my larger pump trucks have stainless steel hose trays on them. That’s usually the first thing to corrode and rot off the truck. It’s a huge cost up front as far as carbon steel, but the longevity of it is almost a lifetime.”
Zuech has also noticed that keeping the pump trucks in a heated building during the winter increases the corrosion rate, but it’s a necessary practice in order for the trucks to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. “It’s terrible,” he says. “The corrosion rate is even worse when you go from the extreme cold weather, below-freezing weather, into our building, which is about 60 degrees. I’ve noticed our corrosion rate is doubled. It would be better to keep them outside if you could, but not in our application. Our trucks need to be inside and thawed and ready to go when needed.”
Overall, Zuech says he wouldn’t change a thing about the 2012 Kenworth T800 Classy Truck addition to his fleet. “It pretty much does everything that we want it to do, other than not having a jetter or a water source like some do, which is fine by me because we have a jetter. Usually those are two-man jobs anyway, so the process works for us.”