This Pumper’s a Van Guy

First Call Septic Services heads out to initial site visits in well-equipped, fuel-efficient vans.
This Pumper’s a Van Guy
First Call Septic owner Ronnie Tamez (right) and employee Chris Gross inspect a septic system at a local business, with one of the company's service vans in the background.

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While vacuum service trucks are typically outfitted with storage for equipment and parts, Ronnie Tamez prefers to maintain two service vans for First Call Septic Services in Battle Ground, Washington.

For one thing, the 2006 Freightliners with Mercedes-Benz V6 turbo diesel engines are more gas-efficient than his 4 mpg Peterbilt and Mack tank trucks. Because many of Tamez’s calls are for onsite inspections and repairs, he often makes an initial site visit in one of the vans.

“Our service vans are alarm response vehicles and inspection vans. They carry nearly every alarm switch, control switch, blower, pump, grinder, UV disinfection bulbs and miscellaneous plumbing parts for repairs. Not all calls need a vacuum truck, so we respond in these,” Tamez says. A van carries a jettter from Water Cannon.

Two tool shelves and storage boxes provide designated spaces so that when parts are used they can be immediately replenished from the stock stored at First Call’s shop. Tamez says the vans also provide safer storage than a vacuum truck for sensitive and expensive equipment.

“We have analysis tools for onsite dissolved oxygen readings as well as a turbidity meter (both from Oakton Instruments) to properly care for our aerobic treatment systems. We also have Prototek equipment to electronically locate any system underground including drainfields,” Tamez says.

The FR-1 model from Prototek was chosen because, “It can locate lines through cast iron pipe and we have a lot of that in our area. We paid more for this model because of that feature. But we get referrals from our competitors who run into this situation, and don't have the equipment, nor do they want to pay for it.

“Everybody calls thinking they need to be pumped because the alarm goes off,” Tamez says. But it’s often another issue and arriving in the service van first is important to diagnose the problem. If needed, the vacuum truck is scheduled later.

“The thing is, (pumpers) aren’t dirt monkeys anymore,” he says. “It’s very technical, and we’re putting in all these plants with few people knowing how to work on them.”

Making investments in well-equipped service vans helps First Call provide a professional one-stop service with equipment and parts ready to install and get a system working correctly in a short time, Tamez says.

There's more on First Call Septic in the August issue of Pumper magazine. Check out the full profile here. 



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