6 Classy Truck Trends and How They Help Pumpers Make Money

They’re big. They’re basic. And today’s vacuum trucks help drivers pump more volume and satisfy more customers.

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The past year has been like no other in our memory. Working through the roller coaster of the COVID-19, pumpers have always been there to answer the call. And with so many people working from home, their phones rang and rang. It was a source of pride for septic system professionals that they kept working every day, proving they provide an essential service to millions of people across the country.

While many aspects of work and life remained in flux throughout the long pandemic, one thing remained constant in the wastewater industry. Technicians required quality tools to do their important work, and none are more important than their vacuum trucks. I have spoken to many pumpers whose crews relied on rock-solid service trucks as they emptied 8-12 tanks a day trying to keep up with increasing demand. 

Oftentimes these hardworking service providers couldn’t spare their trucks, even for a day, for unscheduled repairs and maintenance. So it was no surprise to me that our readers continued refurbishing or upgrading their equipment at a time when other business owners were taking a more cautious approach to fleet management. They simply couldn’t do without reliable pumper trucks.


I think the 2021 Classy Trucks reflect that business common sense that said the past two years were no time to draw back on plans for newer or better trucks. Over the past few years, the entries to our Classy Truck contest have continued to roll in, our owners secure in spending the cash or setting up payments all the while knowing these were sound investments in the present and the future. 

Take a look inside this issue for a review of the dozen trucks featured over the past year. Then cast your ballot to help us choose the top truck of the year, which will be featured on the cover of the February 2022 issue of Pumper. The winning truck owner will receive a vinyl Classy Truck of the Year decal to proudly display on the tank or cab for all in their hometown to see and appreciate. 

Compiling the stats about the 2021 Classy Trucks shows a number of industry trends. Among the observations: 

There’s a lot of variety in brand and builders

The field this year is dominated by Peterbilt, with five of the trucks coming from that popular marque. The remainder of the rigs are split among several builders, including Kenworth, Freightliner, Western Star, Mack and International. Sorry Volvo fans; you are not represented this year. And I’m not sure we’ve ever had this diverse of a list of vacuum truck builders represented. Three came from Imperial Industries, two each from Amthor International and Presvac Systems, and singles from Andert, FlowMark, Vacutrux, KaryMore and 27th Trucks.  

Trucks are bigger and more powerful

The move toward higher wastewater capacity began many years ago, and it continues today. Tank size is driven by a number of factors, but clearly most importantly pumpers want to reduce the number of trips to the dump station. That’s primarily because each drive to the treatment plant or to land-apply septage delays drivers from paying service calls. Also, holding and septic tanks are getting bigger. Where once a house might have a single 500-gallon septic tank, bigger homes with more bedrooms are often requiring multiple tanks reaching 1,000 to 1,500 gallons each. It’s gotten to the point that even the bigger trucks might have to dump after one call. 

So while there is a 2,000-gallon tank on our list this year, half of the trucks hold 4,000 or 5,000 gallons of waste, and the overall average is creeping close

to the 4,000-gallon mark. Vacuum power is following the same trend. While there is a 260 cfm pump on the list, more pumps are topping out at 500 cfm and powerful blowers are taking more share of the market.

The chassis provide longer effective service

Only a few of our trucks in the 2021 lineup would be considered showroom fresh. One is built on a 2021 chassis, two on 2020 chassis and one from 2019. More often, the trucks have seen a lot of miles on the odometer. Two of our trucks this year are 2004 models that have been refreshed with new equipment. And the average age of the 12 trucks is just shy of seven years. 

What can we glean from the aging of the Classy Trucks? Maybe today’s trucks are built to a higher quality, the manufacturers have worked the kinks out of the advanced emissions systems, or rising chassis cost is encouraging pumpers to look for ways to build for quality and economy. At any rate, it looks like pumpers are trying to wring more life and value out of their equipment.

Owners are looking for utility over flashiness

I remember the early 2000s, when Classy Truck owners seemed like they were trying to top each other with a lot of bling and over-the-top features. One crazy rig sported scissor doors like an Italian sports car. Others were dripping with chrome accents, fancy underchassis lighting and complex paint treatments that added thousands of dollars to the cost of a build. 

Truck owners seem to be aiming more for practicality these days. Chrome is being dropped in favor of spending money on LED lighting and safety strobes. Instead of flashy paint, owners are ordering crisp, clean graphic details aimed at linking passersby with their social media. When a creative approach is called for, they seem to favor vinyl wraps to costly custom paint jobs.

Driver convenience and efficiency are key 

Continual improvements are making it easier to get new technicians in the driver’s seat. Fully half of this crop of trucks feature automatic transmissions, eliminating a barrier of entry to many new CDL drivers not trained or uninterested in jamming gears all day long. At one time, old-school pumpers took pride in expertly working an 18-speed gearbox, but the number is fewer every year. And owners tell me that veteran drivers are adapting easily to the automatics. Many other conveniences, such as air-ride seats, leather interiors, Bluetooth in the cab, backup cameras and safety lighting are also appreciated and could play a role in employee retention.

Red, white and blue

The color of a rig generally has an impact brand identity, so it’s always interesting to see the choices being made by Classy Truck owners. This year they stuck to red, white and blue. Four of our trucks are the traditional white, which is always thought of as an indicator of cleanliness. Three each went with blue trucks and red trucks. And a pair of the trucks went with a patriotic red, white and blue theme. Absent from the list are colors screaming to be noticed, like bright yellow, purple, pink or any custom metal flake or flamed-out look. And typical years will see a few black, brown or gold colors pumping companies might choose to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. 


I want to take a moment to wish you and your families a happy holiday season. I hope you had a great 2021 and are looking forward to an even better 2022. Pumpers have seen a lot of upheaval over the past year, but through it all you have continued to offer consistent and quality service to your customers in their time of need. Please know they appreciate your care and hard work, and I do, too!   


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