A truck that transported water for fracking operations on the East Coast turned out to be just what Tom Arts was after for his septic business

When Tom Arts decided to invest in a newer vacuum truck for his pumping business, A-1 Septic in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, he looked at the classified ads in Pumper magazine and found just what he wanted: a pre-owned, tri-axle 2012 Peterbilt 365 vacuum truck with approximately 200,000 miles on the odometer.

Equipped with a 4,850-gallon steel tank made by Pik Rite and a liquid-cooled Jurop/Chandler pump, the truck had been used for transporting water for fracking operations in East Coast oilfields. Converting a water truck for septic pumping made perfect sense to Arts, who also used a Pumper magazine classified ad to sell his older truck, a 1994 International with a 4,300-gallon tank made by Imperial Industries, in just two days.

First of all, the truck was dramatically less expensive than a new truck: roughly $115,000 versus nearly $200,000. In addition, the used truck was ready to hit the road and start generating revenue, as opposed to waiting to get a new one outfitted.

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“It doesn’t matter if you’re pumping water or septic waste,” Arts says. “These trucks can be used for either function.” Converting the truck to septic-pumping capability required minimal work. Because A-1 Septic land-applies much of the septage it collects, Arts needed to install a switch in the cab that could open the truck’s rear valve for spreading waste. “We also added a tank gauge and a new valve on the back,” he says, adding that Imperial Industries did the conversion work.

Arts was attracted to the truck’s bigger tank, which boosts operating efficiency in the rural area the company serves. “Often there’s a large distance between customers,” he says. And investing in newer equipment also helps increase employee retention, a bonus at a time when it’s difficult to attract and keep employees, he notes.

Arts is pleased with the conversion, and he expects to do it again within the next few years. “Our plan is to sell our oldest truck and buy an upgrade,” he says. “As workloads pick up and trucks get older, they start costing you too much money. So it’s better to get rid of an older truck — even if you still owe money on it.

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“If a truck goes down for a week, you might miss out on 50 jobs. Plus, then the other guys have to work overtime. Or you lose jobs to competitors. It can get pretty pricey.”

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