Buy Good Rigs and Work Them Hard

Pumper Mike Oberg talks about his favorite trucks and how he keeps them in great shape.
Buy Good Rigs and Work Them Hard
Mike Oberg, owner of Mike’s Septic Service, stands in front of his fleet of three trucks at his company’s yard in Eagle River, Wisconsin. The vehicles include a 2015 Kenworth T880 with 5,200-gallon tank (Imperial), 2012 Kenworth T800 with a 4,300-gallon tank (Imperial) and a 2010 Kenworth T800 with a 6,500-gallon tank (Central Wisconsin Body and Hoist).

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You can call Mike Oberg a Kenworth man.

Oberg started his pumping business, Mike’s Septic, in Eagle River, Wisconsin, in 1993, and a few years later he determined it would be Kenworth all the way when it came time to buying new rigs.

“I like the longevity of them and the resale value,” Oberg says. “The first new truck I had was an International and it cost me $10,000 less than if I would have bought a Peterbilt or a Kenworth at the time. But in the long run, when I went to resell it, I would’ve been able to get more than that $10,000 difference. I would’ve made out on it. I’ve just found that I have a much easier time selling a Kenworth down the line.”

Mike’s Septic currently has three trucks in the fleet, all of them Kenworth – a 2010 T800 semi-tractor pulling a 6,500-gallon steel tanker with a Masport pump from Central Wisconsin Body and Hoist; a 2012 T800 tandem-axle with a 4,300-gallon tank and Masport pump, and a 2015 T880 tri-axle with a 5,200-gallon tank and National Vacuum Equipment (NVE) blower, both rigs built by Imperial Industries.

“I go through the same salesman for all my truck purchases,” Oberg says. “I go with the same (engine), the same tranny, the same rear-end gear ratios. We went with the T880 for this most recent purchase because it’s a new aerodynamic design and it gave us a little more cab room.”

He says extra cab room is convenient for storing toolboxes because new emissions systems have cut into the equipment space available on trucks’ frame rails.

Oberg says it’s important to him to have good trucks and replace them at appropriate intervals.

“I like to replace my trucks about every seven years, but sometimes it’s longer than that if a truck is still in good shape,” he says.

Oberg makes sure he minimizes wear and tear on his trucks. For example, in winter when business is slower, only the 2012 Kenworth goes out on calls. That prevents the other two trucks from being exposed to the sand and salt put down on icy roads. And because those trucks only see summertime service, Oberg expects they’ll likely be solid trucks for him beyond his typical replacement interval.

The 2010 Kenworth is in its sixth pumping season and Oberg has put on 70,000 miles. That’s well below the 200,000 miles that often can be put on a truck over that time, he says.

Oberg has owned seven septic trucks. The trucks are taken care of but also worked hard.

“I try to schedule 10 to 17 jobs a day per truck,” he says.

Maximizing the daily workload requires careful planning between Oberg and his two other drivers. Oberg says he’ll sometimes use the 2010 Kenworth with the 6,500-gallon tank solely for waste transport in order to help his drivers stay out longer pumping tanks and avoid long drive times back to the fields where they land-apply.

“They can get into places easier with the smaller trucks and get jobs done more quickly, and they are not having to spend all that time driving back and forth,” he says. “We meet up to off-load, and he can go back out. Then I can just keep going back and forth from the fields and pump out what I can. That’s the only way we can cover the kind of ground we do.

“It’s all about efficiency. That’s how you make as much money out of this work as you can,” Oberg concludes. “You can’t be spending all your time driving up and down the road.”

Read more about Mike Oberg's company in the August issue of Pumper.


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