Brawn & Beauty

An Indiana pumper’s workhorse Volvo with a splash of patriotic colors is the 2018 Classy Truck of the Year

Brawn & Beauty

Frank Powers IV lays hose for a residential septic job. The Classy Truck winner was built out by Advance Pump & Equipment and carries a General Pipe Cleaners jetter and National Vacuum Equipment pump. (Photos courtesy of Volvo Trucks North America)

Start with the need for a reliable heavy-hauler to carry residential septage every day. Add a large, stout vacuum tank with a hoist to empty those loads quickly and efficiently. Choose a chassis for ultimate safety and ease of use by all of your drivers. Then wrap that package in patriotic pride. What do you have?

The 2018 Classy Truck of the Year, a red, white and blue 2017 Volvo VHD chassis with a formidable build-out by Advance Pump & Equipment, the pride of its owner, Frank Powers IV of Powers Septic & Sewer in Noblesville, Indiana.

The workhorse rig was chosen from a field of 18 Classy Truck entries through online balloting and a panel of COLE Publishing judges. While many beautiful trucks were entered in the 2018 contest and many would have been worthy of our annual prize, this rig — which was the March 2018 Classy Truck entry — was a standout in looks and functionality.

And Volvo must have agreed, as the Swedish marque not so common among U.S. pumpers chose the Powers truck to be the first septic service rig featured on its dealer calendar, where it appeared in July 2018.

“It runs five days a week, 7 in the morning to 5 at night. We work the hell out of that truck,” says Powers, 40, who owns the suburban Indianapolis business with his father, Frank Powers III. With only three drivers pumping 3 to 4 million gallons of wastewater annually, the Volvo takes a beating as the Powers’ main service truck. It’s a well-used tool, and the younger Powers was gratified it won Pumper’s annual contest.

“I’m surprised and grateful because there were a lot of other good trucks,” he says. “The custom paint job and the quality of craftsmanship (Advance Pump & Equipment) put into it … put it all together and that’s a sharp-looking truck.”


The truck runs with a 4,800-gallon hoisted stainless steel tank and National Vacuum Equipment 866 pump. It’s powered by a 500 hp Volvo D13 engine tied to a Volvo I-Shift 12-speed automated manual transmission. The truck features a double frame, hoist, General Pipe Cleaners/General Wire Spring jetter in a heated box with 300 feet of 3/8-inch hose, Garnet SeeLevel gauge, aluminum wheels, full lockers on air-ride, a steerable pusher axle, heated valves, a 4-inch inlet and 6-inch dump valve, triple top-side manways with a catwalk for cleaning the tank, a 140-gallon freshwater tank with Arctic Fox tank heater, strobe lights for safety and a trailer hitch.

The interior features keyless entry, eight-way adjustable driver’s seat made of a durable fire hose fabric and a vinyl bench seat for three-wide seating, power windows and locks, heated windshield and radio with Bluetooth controls. The graphics package was provided by CSI Signs.

Delivery on spec and the owner experience through 70,000 miles so far have been satisfying, Powers says, because he has forged a successful networking team with Braun Winchester, the sales rep for General Truck Sales in Muncie, Indiana, and Wayne Vanden Berge, president of Advance Pump & Equipment. The dealership is small, is nearby and provides personal service — three advantages for a busy pumping company, he says.


The Powers’ signature red, white and blue truck colors arrived by serendipity, Powers explains. Their first truck, a used 1995 Kenworth T800, arrived painted in the colors of the flag, and they simply continued with it. But the paint scheme reflects Powers’ personality.

“I like the colors red, white and blue, but I’m also patriotic, a proud American you would say. And the colors are noticeable on the road. You can see the trucks just stand out,” he says. And Powers wants to keep his trucks looking nice, washing them once or twice a week during the busy season, though he admits it’s difficult to keep up appearances in the sloppy winter season.

“(Customers) comment on the truck and how nice it looks. It’s good to have a nice-looking piece of equipment showing up at your house,” he says.

While the company started with a Kenworth, this is its second Volvo chassis, and Powers is planning to buy another truck in 2020 and wants to stick with Volvo. Why? Partly their preferred dealer sells the brand, but safety is also big factor driving the decision.

“If I was ever in an accident, I’d want to be in a Volvo truck. They come standard with an air bag. Nobody else does the Swedish rollover test. If you’re in a head-on collision, the motor is engineered to go below the cab and not come into the cab with you,” Powers explains. “Nobody in the trucking industry comes close in the safety aspect. The visibility out of the Volvo is awesome compared to the Western Star and the two Kenworths I have.”


Volvo’s Swedish Cab Safety Test is designed to ensure the structural integrity of a vehicle passenger compartment. Powers explains that the Volvo truck is engineered so doors will not open during a rollover, but they will open after the crash to allow passengers to escape. The company also touts its High-Strength Steel cabs have the industry’s highest strength-to-weight ratio, which it says absorbs as much crash energy as possible.

A small detail Powers likes is that no control knobs protrude from the dash; they are designed to be as flush as possible. “With some truck manufacturers, the switches for lights are little knobs that stick out, and in an accident, they could be like little knives getting jammed in your knees,” he says.

Powers also loves Volvo’s I-Shift transmission, which he sees as part of the sweeping trend toward use of automatic transmissions in the work truck industry. However, he likes that the I-Shift gives more of the feel of driving a manual without the distraction of a third pedal and constant gear-shifting. Volvo says I-Shift uses “intelligent electronics to continuously monitor grade, speed, weight, and engine load, shifting when necessary or holding a gear — whichever saves more fuel.” For Powers, it mimics the pulling habits of a manual gearbox without the hassle.

“You hear it and it sounds like a manual transmission, but you can concentrate more on driving down the road than shifting. It’s one less thing you have to do; it frees your mind to pay attention to other things,” he says. “The computer does all that so I don’t have to.”

This is not only convenient to an experienced transporter of heavy liquid loads like Powers. But it means new drivers — who often train and test for their CDL in automatic trucks — can come on board at pumping companies and be more productive sooner.

“It’s nice to get an inexperienced driver in that truck and have them go with no problems. He can drive like a guy with 40 years’ experience,” Powers says. “You get more people available to drive in the industry and they’re less likely to be tearing up your transmissions.”


Powers has been happy with the reliability and drivability of the Volvo even though he had a little trepidation in ordering his first truck with new emissions equipment. It remains under warranty and all maintenance has been performed at the dealer. He says the catwalk, multiple manways and hoist make it easy to clean the inside of the tank. Ample work lights in the rear and illuminating the hose trays help with nighttime emergency service. The Garnet gauge, combined with a sight tube and rear sight glasses provide an excellent reading on capacity.

He would only make two changes if he ordered the truck again. First, he would find room on a crowded chassis to upgrade to a blower over a vane pump to provide additional power in the field and reduce oil consumption and maintenance. Second, he would derate the front axle from 22,000 to 20,000 pounds so he could run a smaller float tire, going from a 4.25 to 3.85 size to improve the turning radius in tight residential-driveway situations.

Keeping a small fleet of service trucks in tiptop shape is important for Powers, whose small crew pumps 3.5 to 4 million gallons of septage a year with three drivers and a few main trucks. In addition to Powers and his father, the company employs another driver, Mark Ottinger, and a helper, Owen Aaron. The new Volvo is joined by:

  • A 2012 Western Star from Advance Pump & Equipment, which started as a glider kit and carries a 4,600-gallon stainless steel tank and National Vacuum Equipment 4310 blower. The truck was featured on the show floor at the 2014 Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo (now the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport Show, or WWETT Show).
  • 2006 Volvo VHD built out by Quality Tank Trucks with a 4,000-gallon aluminum hoisted tank from Presvac Systems and a National Vacuum Equipment 866 vane pump. It was exhibited at the Pumper & Cleaner show in Nashville, Tennessee.
  • 2015 Kenworth T800 glider daycab semi pulling a 6,000-gallon aluminum short tanker built on a 30-foot trailer by Advance Pump & Equipment with a National Vacuum Equipment 4310 blower. The rig is used to transport loads from all of the trucks for disposal.


The Powers family got into pumping in an unusual way. The elder Powers owns a mobile home park and was frustrated with the timeliness of service he was receiving from septic service companies. So he bought a truck to service the mobile home park and soon was pumping for friends, family and the general public. Today the office is run by Frank III’s wife, Patty, and Frank IV’s wife, Crystal. The younger Powers has five children: Frank V, 16; Kelsee, 13; Samantha, 9; Lucas, 8; and Brooklyn, 7. He’s hopeful one of the kids will want to carry on in the business someday.

What’s next on the truck front? Powers will be shopping at the WWETT Show this month, which is held at the Indiana Convention Center just down the road from his shop. He’d like to order a rig to be displayed at the 2020 WWETT Show. And with his truck on the cover of this issue of Pumper distributed at the show, he might gain something of a celebrity status.

He laughed at the prospect of autographing the cover photo for WWETT Show attendees.

“If the kids are good and their grades are good, I might let them go along for the day and walk the floor,” he says.

If you see Powers or his dad at the show, please share hearty congratulations for having the Classy Truck of the Year!


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