Vacuum Truck Operation: Free Online Refresher Quiz

All of the respondents to the Truck Corner quiz had a failing grade. So it’s time to hit the books.

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There’s a good reason we haven’t announced a winner of the Truck Corner quiz published a few months ago in PRO. Of the many entries we received, no one answered more than 60 percent of the questions correctly. It’s been a long time since I was in school, but that adds up to a failing grade as I remember it.

The poor scores were somewhat alarming to me, and so it’s time we hit the books and review some vacuum truck operation basics. Truck Corner reader Eric Crouse, of Sullivan, Ill., agrees. He recently wrote to ask for the quiz results to help in his education process in buying his own portable sanitation company.

“I am currently in negotiations to purchase a pumping business and I’m trying to absorb as much as possible,’’ Crouse says. “I saw your quiz in the December PRO. Could I possibly get the answers to the quiz?’’

Eric and everyone … here are the answers. Correct answers are in boldface. Pay attention; there may be a quiz:

1.  True or False?
Maintaining your vacuum truck in Minnesota should be the same in July as in January. Once the truck starts, everything operates the same.

False. It’s freezing in January or worse. Do you take precautions to go out in freezing weather? Your truck has similar needed changes. Different types of oil are needed in your truck, and you might need different oils in your pump.

2.  True of False?
The pressure/vacuum gauge regulates the amount of pressure or vacuum in your vacuum truck system.

True. The pressure/vacuum gauge measures the amount of pressure or vacuum in the tank and releases air in or out at the proper gauge setting. This gauge is an important part in determining the health of your pump. If your vacuum isn’t pulling the normal vacuum or releasing at the proper pressure, then something is wrong in the system.

3.  True or False?
The best place to locate a pressure/vacuum gauge is on the rear head of the vacuum tank where it can best be seen.

False. The pressure/vacuum gauge should be located as close as possible to the pump. It’s possible that it might be located on the pump. It can’t be seen well when located on the rear head, plus back there it’s exposed to bumping into things.

4.  True or False?
Vacuum trucks will operate about the same in Phoenix and Los Angeles.

True. Elevation is a critical factor in vacuum system operating efficiency. Phoenix and Los Angeles are about the same elevation compared to sea level. Operating in the mountains changes the equation.

5.  True or False?
The difference between blowers and vacuum pumps is simple. The blower, when turned on, creates vacuum by moving a lot of air in and then out of the tank, similar to a vacuum cleaner. A vacuum pump removes the air inside a vacuum tank and does not allow it out until the operator opens the suction valve. This vacuum becomes the force that tries to neutralize the air inside the tank with the air outside the tank.

True. Nothing else need be said.

6.  Time to work. It’s early in the morning. You hop into your truck and head down the road to pump your first group of restrooms. Arriving at the scene, what is the best procedure to get the job done?

a. Get out of the truck. Turn on the vacuum/pressure gauge. Neutralize the pump. At that point, grab the hose and go to work.
b. Turn on the PTO, which operates the vacuum pump. Get out of the truck. Check the pressure/vacuum gauge to make sure the vacuum is building normally. If so, then take the hose and go to work.
c. Turn on the PTO. Get out of the truck and switch the four-way valve to the Pressure position. Then go to work.
d. Turn on the PTO. Tighten the four-way valve to the proper position. Set the vacuum gauge to 30 inches of mercury and then go to work.

7.  The gearbox on a vacuum truck:

a.  Regulates the transmission and keeps the truck in the proper gear as it drives down the road.
b.  Is connected to the PTO to regulate rotation of the vacuum pump.
c.  Is only required when a separate engine-driven pump is utilized.
d.  Is not needed when a PTO is installed and rotating at least at 2,400 rpm.

8.  The basic vacuum truck system starts when the PTO is switched on and then:

a.     The air is pulled from inside the vacuum tank, then through the secondary, then through the primary, and then through the pump, exhausting through the four-way valve.
b.     The air is pulled from inside the vacuum tank, through the primary, then to the gearbox, and finally exhausted at the pump.
c.     The air is pulled from the vacuum tank, through the primary, then through the secondary, then through the pump and out the oil catch muffler.
d.     The air is pulled from the vacuum tank, through the oil catch muffler, on to the primary and then exhausted through the secondary.

9.  The secondary moisture trap should be emptied

a.  Every day
b.  Once a week
c.  Once a month
d.  Every six months

10.  The life span of a carbon steel vacuum tank is

a.  3 years
b.  7 years
c.  Dependent on care and maintenance that it’s given
d.  50 years

11.  The life span of a stainless steel tank is

a.  4 years
b.  Unlimited
c.  8 years
d.  9 years

A Final Thought

As this column has stressed over the years, knowledge of your vacuum system offers your business an incredible advantage. It’s hard enough to find customers and do the job, but it’s impossible to do without a smooth-running vacuum truck.


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