A Canadian Family Company Finds the Secret to Success Is Diversifying the Service Menu

Pumpers in the great white north may slow down during the long winter. Not Wilton Sanitation, which finds new ways to keep the crew hustling throughout the year.

A Canadian Family Company Finds the Secret to Success Is Diversifying the Service Menu

Shown from left are Dave Echlin, Chris Quast, Doug Weber, Scott Wilton, Trent McCormick, Geoff Tweddle, Charlie Nicholson, Katie Clark, Doug Wilton, Megan Wilton, Lloyd Wilton, Bea Wilton, Nancy Wilton, Sherri Campbell, Diane Bilenki and Jackie Swayze. Maverick the dog is in the foreground.

Wilton Sanitation was founded in 1971 by Lloyd Wilton with a single septic service truck, a 1959 Dodge once used as a fire truck. Septic pumping is still central to the company’s success, but a host of new services — from portable restroom rentals to roll-off bin rentals and municipal garbage pickup — have continued to drive growth.

Wilton was a plumber who found septic service provided greater opportunities for supporting a growing family from his home base — a hobby farm in Flesherton, Ontario, about 100 miles northwest of Toronto. Although he helped out occasionally with the business, son Doug Wilton followed his own career path as a sales representative for an educational book service that sold exclusively to school boards and public libraries.

When his father identified a need in the community for portable restrooms, Doug Wilton launched a separate, but complementary company in 1990 with four units. “Each year at the publishing company, we got the summer off to coincide with school holidays,” Wilton says. “It dovetailed perfectly with the busy period for restroom rentals.”

Wilton’s father pumped the units during the first year of operation, but a growing inventory of portable restrooms saw the restroom business buy its first vacuum truck, a used 1988 Ford F-550 with a Vacutrux tank and Wallenstein pump, the following year.

“When I bought that truck, I felt like I had the world by the tail,” Wilton recalls. “It was a side business, but I kept adding portable restroom units.”


Lloyd retired in 1999 and sold Doug the business. The younger Wilton’s restroom inventory now numbered 100 units and two trucks. He combined both operations into a single business, and for the first two years, he operated alone, with the occasional assistance of friends who helped out during busy periods.

“I quickly began to look for business synergies that could help the company weather slower winters and economic downturns,” he says. “We’re in a rural area, so growing the business means being open to new business opportunities. And we’ve grown every year.”

Wilton added roll-off container rentals in 2004 and won his first contract for municipal curbside garbage pickup in 2007.

Today, the busy company employs nine full-time and three seasonal workers, not including company mascot Maverick, a German shepherd who announces the arrival of every truck. The fleet includes two units devoted to septic pumping and six devoted to portable restroom service. All are built out by Vacutrux with steel tanks and Wallenstein pumps. The septic pumpers are a 2006 Peterbilt and 2019 Western Star, both with 4,325-gallon tanks.

“Septic pumping keeps us busy from about April to November,” Wilton says. “We have a lot of long-term customers who have been with us for almost 50 years. Some of our older clients still ask me how my dad is doing.”

Septic pumping provides a sweet spot for the business. Wilton has never considered expanding to installations or repairs, even though he completed the course that qualifies him as a licensed installer.

“We’ll install Polylok risers, which we carry on our trucks,” he says. “But that’s just to make pumping easier instead of excavating. We must do two to three riser installs each week.”

The company’s septic service area extends to about a 25-mile radius of home base.


The portable restroom service fleet is also built out by Vacutrux with steel tanks and Wallenstein pumps. In the fleet are three GMCs: a pair of 5500s with 600-gallon waste and 240-gallon freshwater tanks and a 3500 with a 360-gallon waste and 205-gallon freshwater tank. There is also a pair of Ram 5500s: a 2011 with a 515-gallon waste and 290-gallon freshwater tank and a 2014 with a 660-gallon waste and 420-gallon freshwater tank. Another is a Ford F-550 with a 515-gallon waste and 290-gallon freshwater tank.

The company manages a fleet of 500 portable restrooms and 17 restroom trailers. The portable restrooms are all supplied by PolyJohn Canada. They include 460 PJN3s (380 nonflush and 80 flush), 20 Fleet units and 12 Comfort XL wheelchair-accessible units. PolyJohn Canada also supplies two Fleet shower units and two four-station SaniStand hand-sanitizing stations.

Eight of the trailers are Comfort Station models supplied by McKee Technologies. Three are Estate models by A Restroom Trailer Co. (ART Co.). Ameri-Can Engineering supplies an 814 and an 816 model. Wells Cargo supplies two units, both Comfort Elites. The Trailer Factory also provides two — a Solar 2 and Solar 3 unit. Three restroom transport trailers are all by McKee Technologies: a six unit, 10 unit and 12 unit.

“We rent out about 60% of the units to construction customers, mostly homebuilders,” Wilton says. “The other 40% involves rental and service of trailers to high-end weddings and individual units for weekend parties. During the busy summer season, we might handle two to three weddings per weekend.”

Wilton won’t turn down big events. He’s previously provided 130 restrooms and service to the Holstein Rodeo a large agricultural event, but he doesn’t bid outside of his immediate service area. The company will go as far as 125 miles to provide luxury rentals and service for wedding clients but sticks closer to home for smaller construction contracts — about 100 miles. Long-term construction rentals run as far as 60 miles from home.

Septage is generally taken to a treatment facility in the municipality of Grey Highlands, which includes Flesherton.


The municipal trash collection business requires Wilton to invest in specialized equipment. The company owns two right-hand drive trucks — a 2019 Freightliner and 2007 International — from Shu-Pak Equipment.

Roll-off rentals don’t provide any logistical synergies for Wilton since pickup and delivery trucks are purpose built. The company owns three trucks built out by On-Trux.

“We rent for construction work, home clean-outs, roofing and demolition,” Wilton says. “The synergy is in the marketing. When we drop off a portable restroom, we mention that we also supply bins.”

Wilton has attended the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show for 25 of the last 30 years. And he isn’t shy about putting a new vacuum truck on display as a show truck. His Peterbilt was on the runway for Vacutrux in 2006, and this last year, his new Western Star was on display, also for Vacutrux.

“Both of them were decked out to the nines, and I was proud to see them on display,” he says. “I also like to see my new trucks broken in on the ride from Ontario to the show. They start life better with a long, easy drive that breaks in the engine and transmission a little better than the stop and start of a pumping schedule.”


Wilton gets up early each day to get the schedule moving. He spends his days quoting, running dispatch and filling in when needed to drive a delivery truck or pump a septic tank. He gets into a truck at least once per day.

“If we get an emergency call for a backed-up septic tank, I’m there,” he says. “When something isn’t happening fast enough for my liking, I’ll get to it myself.”

At 55, Wilton isn’t thinking about retiring anytime soon — although with a little planning and good luck, he can see himself graduating to three-day weekends. His son Scott is 23 and is set to graduate university with a business degree this December. While Scott works with his father in his spare time and even attended the 2019 WWETT Show, he hasn’t officially committed to taking over the business when the time comes.

“I’m 99% certain he’s interested, but we haven’t exactly spoken the words that will seal the deal,” Wilton says. “I’d like to see him go out on his own first. If the prospect still looks good to him, I’d like him to bring that outside experience to the business.”

Rockin’ rigs pay dividends

Doug Wilton likes to dress up his vacuum truck fleet at Wilton Sanitation with a little chrome and a lot of attention to detailing.

“Whenever I order a truck, I don’t mind ordering all of the creature comforts and a little extra chrome and aluminum wheels to make the truck stand out,” he says. “I like to load them up at ordering time. Even when it comes to ordering a pump, I’d rather lean to overkill by ordering a pump with a little extra power and volume.”

All the trucks see a lot of soapy water throughout the year.

“We wash and clean each of the trucks every day, inside and out,” Wilton says. “We have a full-time employee, Katie Clark, who organizes the yard, stages deliveries and keeps the trucks clean. She pressure-washes the trucks, vacuums the insides — every detail you can think of. We hire extra help for cleaning during the summer. During the winter, if Katie can’t get to it, the drivers are expected to help out with daily cleaning duties.”

Trucks are also kept in shape with routine maintenance at the company’s three-bay shop. Employees handle chores that range from painting to refurbishing restroom trailers.

“A good-looking truck not only makes a good impression on the road and with customers, but inspires pride in our workers,” Wilton says. “They respect the trucks better and drive them better.”


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