Seeing Red: Schulteis Pumping Takes Home Classy Truck of the Year Honors

After three tries in 15 years, the guys at Schulteis Pumping take home Classy Truck honors with their bright red workhouse Peterbilt rig

Seeing Red: Schulteis Pumping Takes Home Classy Truck of the Year Honors

Cousins Nathan Hill, left, and Tim Schulteis, owners of Schulteis Pumping, are shown with their 2018 Peterbilt 367 built out by Imperial Industries. Hill and his brother, Justin “Gus” spent nearly 100 hours cleaning and detailing the rig for this Classy Truck photo shoot. (Photos by Michael McLoone)

Big, red and shiny. That’s how you can describe the entire fleet of service trucks at Schulteis Pumping in Slinger, Wisconsin.

Owners and cousins Nathan Hill and Tim Schulteis favor big tanks to handle loads from large holding tanks. They’ve kept to ordering attention-grabbing red rigs since their fathers switched from a brown color scheme in the early 1990s. And shiny? Well, tanks have been polished stainless steel or aluminum for more than a decade, and the guys order up chrome accents like a Hollywood actress drapes herself in stunning jewelry to walk the red carpet.

At the same time, Hill and Schulteis keep the vinyl lettering simple. The name and the phone number are emblazoned in bold red text on the tanks, but there’s no other fancy graphics on the tank or the cab to distract from the clean look.

Simple, but elegant is a winning strategy for the 54-year-old family pumping company — and one that landed the cousins 2019 Classy Truck of the Year honors. Their 2018 Peterbilt 367 with a 6,000-gallon aluminum tank and National Vacuum Equipment 4307 560 cfm blower from Imperial Industries was chosen from a field of 18 great-looking trucks by a reader tally and a Pumper expert panel. The truck — first published in the April 2019 issue — was the third monthly Classy Truck entry posted by the company in 15 years.

When Hill was notified about the Classy Truck win, he was surprised because he was impressed by so many of the trucks that appeared throughout the year. He rattled off the company names of several of the trucks he felt were worthy of the distinction, noting that others also had great working features and beautiful paint and graphics.

But the Schulteis “keep it simple” appearance and practical specs of the Peterbilt won the day.


Hill, 41, doesn’t know why his stepfather and uncle, Jim and Ron Schulteis, switched from brown to red for the service fleet color almost 30 years ago, but it’s clearly made the trucks more noticeable running down the roads in the suburban and rural areas north of Milwaukee. He does know, however, why the company switched to stainless and then aluminum tanks in the early 2000s.

“For us, it was the corrosion factor. Steel rusts so bad,” he explains. Salt is laid down generously during Wisconsin winters, and that eats away at the tanks and trucks. There is no such issue with aluminum or the 16-year-old stainless tank on Hill’s personal rig, which shows no signs of significant wear.

A question Hill had about aluminum tanks has proven to be unfounded. “We were concerned they would be too light around here in the winter. Would we have enough traction to make it around the lakes in the Kettle Moraine area? It hasn’t been an issue at all for us.”

The big tank on the winning truck was also a practical choice. The company runs another Peterbilt and two Mack Granite trucks that carry large tanks, and the guys have moved toward heavy-duty blower pumps so they can service more and larger tanks between dumping runs, Hill explains.

The Classy Truck winner is mainly used to pump residential (2,000 to 6,000 gallons) and commercial (5,000 to 30,000 gallons) holding tanks, so the big tanks and quad wheels make for longer runs while the powerful blowers keep the service stops shorter. And the truck isn’t weighed down with hoses either, as local codes require holding tank access to be within 25 feet of the driveway. The truck carries 165 feet of hose for situations where customers are worried about the truck damaging the driveway.

“I’d rather string out extra hose than pay for someone’s driveway,” Hill says.


The Peterbilt was spec’d from Imperial Industries with many subtle conveniences that make it a pleasure to work on for regular driver Pete Wolf, who puts on about 35,000 miles a year, 80,000 total to date. Hill has grown to appreciate Garnet SeeLevel gauges for pinpoint accuracy measuring wastewater loads. After working with blowers for a while, he sees a trend continuing away from vane pumps. He says Lincoln automatic greasers save maintenance time and extend the life of their trucks.

Hose tray dividers to keep tools organized and clean as well as hose tray railings to contain the hose are great features he would recommend to other pumpers. And he loves the Alcoa Dura-Bright aluminum wheels, which he says are easy to maintain and don’t require constant polishing. Bright accents include dual chrome stacks, bullet-style rooftop LED lights, visor, air horn, bumper, grille, fuel tank, blower cabinet and toolbox.

In harsh Wisconsin winters, it’s important to be able to keep service trucks indoors, Hill notes.

“With the salt on the roads, we try to wash them — not on a daily or even weekly schedule — but we try to wash them on Fridays before we leave, or I’ll come in Saturday and clean them; maybe not a full detailing, but to get the salt and ugly road grime off,” he says.

Hill and his brother Justin “Gus” perform the detailing. They turn to rouge bars and polishing supplies from Renegade Products USA. They buy detailing products either direct from Renegade or two favorite Wisconsin shops, Evans Detailing in Chilton or the Big Rig Chrome Shop in Oshkosh.

“When we buy the tanks from Imperial Industries, I polish them before we get them lettered. It seems to make the shine last longer,” he says.


While the winning truck employs a manual Fuller 8LL transmission (Eaton Vehicle Group) tied to a 485 hp Cummins engine, Hill proclaims the company has bought its last manual transmission. While he notes that some old-school pumpers will scoff at the move, Schulteis will only buy automatic transmissions in the future for their convenience.

“That’s the only way we’ll go from here on out. There are so many things to train a new driver on. This makes their job less stressful,” Hill says. Auto transmissions sometimes get a bad rap because the early versions had issues, Hill says. “Now they’re so smooth you don’t even notice it. Allison automatic transmissions have been very good transmissions for the (septic service) application.”

Schulteis gets dealer service when necessary from the JX Peterbilt location in Pewaukee, about 30 miles from the shop. Other maintenance not done in-house is with a truck shop down the road. But there has been no major or minor work necessary on the 2018.

“Peterbilt puts together a pretty good product. I think all of the brands have stepped it up and gotten better,” Hill says.

The same goes for truck builders serving the pumping industry, Hill says. Schulteis turned to Imperial Industries when their previous builder retired about a decade ago.

“If you have a question, they have an answer. They’ve always put out a very good product, and you couldn’t find a friendlier group of people,” Hill says. “That’s probably true with all the manufacturers. I would say there are a lot of talented people in the industry and a lot of talented vendors throughout the industry as well who are putting out very good products to help everybody be successful.”


The simple vinyl graphics on the winning truck, produced by Jason Lisko, make it seem like Schulteis is swimming against the stream. Many new trucks are adorned with flashier images with clean-water or environmental themes, but Hill says he doesn’t think that’s an effective approach for his company.

“There’s not anything wrong with what other guys do; theirs are nice, beautiful trucks as well. But I like things simpler. It’s always just been our name and phone number. You know what the truck is doing,” Hill says. “We used to put our website on there, but with the way the internet works now, I’m not sure how many people visit our website. They just type in our name and Google throws out the number.”

Hill also doesn’t like to put any graphics on the truck cab, preferring to leave the classic lines of the Peterbilt rig to show through. And people get the message, he says.

“Your job is cleaning tanks. If you’ve got a clean truck, people make the next leap to, ‘Oh, those guys keep their truck clean. … They take pride in their equipment.’ I hear from a lot of people that they definitely notice our trucks on the road,” Hill says.

Hill appreciates the winning Peterbilt truck, but he doesn’t get to enjoy driving it much. Ironically, the owners at Schulteis drive the two oldest trucks. But they like it that way, he says. Hill’s 2005 truck is like an old friend, and one he hopes to drive for another 10 years after a recent tank refresh and an engine rebuild planned for this year. But he sure notices the comfort upgrades when he gets behind the wheel of the winning truck.

“I tease Pete all the time that I don’t know what I was thinking letting him have this truck,” Hill says. He notices how smoothly it rolls down the road without the usual rattles he hears with the older truck. “But I have a hard time getting out of mine.”


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