Many Ways to Secure a Tank

Plan the connection between your vacuum tank and truck frame based on your typical working environment

QUESTION:

I’m in the market for a new truck. I’ve attended the Pumper & Cleaner Expo and it seems like everybody makes a good, solid truck. In looking underneath the tanks and studying how they are mounted to the truck frame, I’ve noticed everyone seems to do it differently. Is there such a thing as a best way to mount a vacuum tank to a truck chassis?

Raymond Helms

Gary, Ind.

ANSWER:

Lots of people never look to see how tanks are mounted to trucks. So here’s a pat on the back to you for noticing that manufacturers all have their own way of doing this. Rather than tell you which way is “best,” let’s talk about the various possibilities for tank mounting.

When it comes to setting the tank on the frame, there are three popular techniques:

1. Some manufacturers mount the tank directly to the frame. That is to say, the tank skid sits directly on the metal frame. There is nothing separating the tank and the truck.

2. Some manufacturers use a hardened wood, sometimes referred to generically as an apitong (the name derives from a variety of hardwood trees in Malaysia). This looks like the standard 2-by-4 board and lays on the frame with the 4-inch-side down. The theory is that it provides a degree of cushion between the frame and the tank when the truck is bouncing down rough roads. The downside of this technique is that, over time, the wood wears down and the tank becomes looser on the truck. This can lead to damage in many ways.

3. Some manufacturers install reinforced rubber belting the full length of the skids. Generally the rubber is up to an inch thick and has steel wire running through it to add durability. This rubber belting gives the tank a softer ride and allows less twisting stress to transfer to the tank.

Setting the tank on the frame is one thing that needs to be considered. Now that we’ve seen the three ways to do that, let’s look at how to secure the tank to the truck frame. Again there are basically three ways to do this.

1. The four corners of the tank are hard-tied to the frame. This means that clips from the tank are bolted directly to the frame. The downside of this technique is that all the stresses from driving down the road are transferred to the skids of the tank, then upward to the tank. The fatigue eventually causes cracks in the skids and shows major troubles are coming for the tank.

2. Tie down the front end of the tank with springs and hard mount the tank in the rear. This spring loading allows the tank to float near the front of the tank. The twists and bounces of a truck occur mostly in the midsection. This technique does a great job, for the most part, of holding everything together. Cracks are rare using this method.

3. Some manufacturers spring load all four corners. This is done primarily when the tank is going to be used in rough environments. Dirt roads on construction sites can be brutal on vacuum trucks. Spring loading all four corners allows little stress to transfer up to the tank. However, if you have a truck with this arrangement, you need to check the springs from time to time to make sure they still have life and are not fatiguing. Troubles can occur if the springs weaken.

All these combinations are used in the industry. Some manufacturers use rubber belting and hard mount all four corners. Others use wood apitongs and spring-load it in various ways.

There are times when bolsters are used to secure tanks to truck frames. Generally, bolsters are either large clips on the side of tanks or they are similar to skids, only they run perpendicular to the tank. They are then mounted using springs, or in some cases, they are hard-mounted to the frame. More often than not, springs are the way to go.

Seek out the opinions of other experienced truckers to find out which technique is best for your circumstances. Each tank should be mounted and tied down to suit the environment in which it will be operating. Some trucks never leave smooth roads, while others do nothing but live and bounce on bumpy, dirt roads. How the tank is mounted and tied down can ultimately determine the life of that tank and even have detrimental effects on the truck itself.



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