Smart Speccing: The Right Way to Buy a New Truck

We get behind the wheel of one of Pumper magazine's Classy Trucks by having a Classy Conversation with Gene Morris, owner of Jarvis Septic & Drain in Wadsworth, Ohio
Smart Speccing: The Right Way to Buy a New Truck

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Do it right the first time — that’s Gene Morris’ motto when it comes to replacing pumper trucks. Morris, owner of Jarvis Septic & Drain in Wadsworth, Ohio, says he buys new to spec out his truck exactly how he needs it.

A 2016 Western Star 4900 Series truck, built out by Tiger General, is the second truck he has built from scratch. “Of course, you’re buying new for reliability and hopefully seeing at least a couple of years with no major maintenance issues,” says Morris. “After that two-year period you’re probably going to be looking at tires and brakes and that sort of thing.”

Specifically, Morris prefers to spec out new trucks so they have a low profile — an aspect of a truck that can be difficult to find in a used truck or off-the-shelf unit. “A low center of gravity — the lower, the better, as far as I’m concerned,” he says. “And then it’s a matter of valve placement, the type of suspension and the specifications on the axles.

“Just being able to spec the truck out how you want is important. You can go overkill if you want. The thing is, you can buy a truck probably for half of what I have in my truck, but I honestly feel then you only have half a truck.”


The specific specs

If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. That’s why Morris stuck with a manual transmission for the Western Star. “The previous truck lasted 18 years, and it was still on its original clutch. So I ordered the exact same transmission as the other truck had.”

Like the previous truck, Morris included a tag axle on the new unit. “I like to try to keep the wheelbase shorter so it turns a little tighter,” he says. “A lot of guys actually run that lift axle in front of their drive axles, and when it’s in that position they call it a pusher, but I like that axle behind our rear axle so it gives you a shorter overall wheelbase, which makes it easier to get in and out of the residential driveways on our narrow county and township roads.”

The custom toolboxes carry the standard tools and parts you can expect to find on a pumper, with one exception. “The one toolbox was designed to carry what’s called a Bio-Kinetic filter. It’s a filter that’s in a Norweco Singular system, and that filter is supposed to be changed either by the distributor or by a service provider. So when we designed that box, we made sure it was big enough to accommodate that filter so if we get out to a job and there’s a Norweco tank and it needs a filter, then we don’t need to reschedule.”

Morris also kept the little things in mind when speccing out the 2016 Western Star and included heated seats in the cab. “As we get older, that heated seat feels very good on your back in the morning, getting your back warmed up to get ready for that first job, so I run it quite a bit,” he says. “Even when it’s hot outside, a lot of times I have the heated seat on just to keep things warm and loose so you have less chance of injuring yourself.”


Versatility translates to profit

As the only pumper in the fleet, the Western Star covers a variety of services.

“The majority of the work is residential septic tank cleaning, but we also do commercial work as far as wastewater treatment plants and hauling sludge. We do some catch basin work, we’ve done a little hydroexcavating with the truck, and restaurant grease traps, of course.”

But Morris got creative with the truck’s capabilities and branched out from traditional pumper applications. “I hate to give away trade secrets, but we’ve actually used the truck to clean soot out of radiant heating tubes,” he says.

“The truck is just a huge wet/dry shop vac — that’s all it really is. So anything you can think to use your wet/dry vac, you can use one of these trucks for.”


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